Shifting the mindset of leaders

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Written by Vlatka Hlupic on 27 July 2016
Volkswagen, Tesco, Lehman Brothers, RBS... 
 
How many more companies are going to capture the headlines, for the wrong reasons? 
 
Given that organisational culture is a reflection of leaders' consciousness, and various research studies show that inadequate leadership is one of the key causes of many corporate scandals, leadership development becomes one of the most important topics to address.
 
We now have better understanding of what makes enterprise thriving, resilient and sustainable. 
 
Some of the key premises of good leadership include: moving away from command and control towards distribution of power and decision making, from focusing on short term profit maximisation to focusing on purpose and from delegating tasks to giving responsibilities. 
 
In addition, from treating people as replenishable resources to appreciating them as sources of value creation, from managing organisation as a formal structure to understanding that it is a living community.
 
Applying this knowledge to leading organisations becomes ever more critical with demographic and technological changes.
 
The millennial generation is technologically savvy with high expectations of autonomy, development opportunities and meaningful work. Mobile technology facilitates creation of companies that comprise a network of teams in multiple locations, not the traditional department in a factory or office. Leaders have to be facilitators, communicators, motivators and strategic thinkers.
 
All this means that many organisations need more than a change of roles at the top to equip themselves for new challenges. They may need a new structure, but more importantly a new culture and mindset, and that normally has to start at the top. The mindset of leaders needs to be shifted to Level 4 of the Emergent Leadership Model. (see Figure 1).
 
Figure 1
 
Based on theories of personal development, this Model encompasses five levels of personal mindset and effectiveness, from Level 1 – Lifeless or apathetic; to Level 5 – Limitless and passionate. 
 
In-depth interviews and questionnaires can identify the level at which a leader is operating, indicated for example by typical thought patterns, e.g. at Level 1 “I feel demoralized/I cannot win” or by contrast at Level 5 “I inspire people to achieve their unlimited potential.” 
 
The latest research in neuroscience gives us more understanding of the links between the individual and the collective, organisational consciousness. 
 
It is not likely that controlling, indifferent, or arrogant individuals can lead a successful enterprise. Research confirms that behaviour and attitude can be infectious – that the positive enthusiasm of an effective boss directly affects the brain chemistry of those around them. This can then ripple out to the wider community.
 
We have recently completed the Individual Shift Programme with 15 senior leaders at the City of Glasgow College, designed to anchor leaders' mindset at Level 4. 
 
After 12 weeks of activities that included two workshops, self directed learning and three one-to-one coaching sessions, the Individual Shift Programme initiated various visible shifts that rippled out to leaders' teams and are spreading throughout an organisation. 
 
Some of the specific actions included creating a more collaborative culture, recognizing levels in others and mentoring them to shift to a higher level, a conscious changing of the language and actions and anchoring the positive, enthusiastic mindset.
 
About the author 

Professor Vlatka Hlupic is Professor of Business and Management at Westminster Business School and for further information click here.