It seems the HR and Management agenda may see a shift from the focus on individuals’ leadership to an emphasis on groups being ‘leaderfull’ in the months and years to come.
Ranieri and his team at Leicester City Football Club have created ripples of change that are flowing out of the world of football into the world of business and management.
In fact what they have achieved in a vibrant and practical way has brought to life a rumbling that had in recent years been echoing around the academic world of management and leadership. Warren Bennis back in 2003 stated that leaders are only ever as effective as their ability to engage followers and six years later, Adair, in ‘Idea 42 : A very short course on leadership’ wrote profoundly that “The one most important word is we” and the least important word “I”.
Much of traditional and contemporary beliefs about what makes a good leader centre on the special qualities or perhaps we should call them ‘superpowers’ of individuals, born or made, trained or nurtured. Turning though away from history lessons and academic legacies, this recent proof from the football pitch that leadership needs followership to translate vision into reality and rhetoric into action is very encouraging for us mere mortals.
As a brilliant article in this month’s ‘The Psychologist’ Magazine points out, with a fixation moving from “I” to “We” there is a shift from ‘the special one’ to the ‘one who makes us feel special’ (Haslam and Reicher)
Sticking for a moment with the football analogy, former Chelsea FC Manager Jose´ Mourinho self- styled as the “special one”, seduced with success, apparently ended up adopting beliefs that he alone knew what to do, and how to do it, with the resulting fall from extremely dizzy heights. Does this remind you of the mentality of leaders in your organisation? What would their teams say about them?
Apparently, Ranieri, arriving at Leicester, was already benefitting from lessons he had previously learned that were very different: that success would not be achieved by the big “I am” ego-driven leadership mentality and style. His approach was instead to aid the team to discover and impose their collective uniqueness, strengths and will. Leicester City has been described as dining out on ‘we-ness’.
We can look outside of football into other worlds, for example politics and easily see that leaders move their listeners when they speak the voice of the people, rather than a self-centred monologue about themselves as individuals.
As Haslam (et al) says, the importance of speaking for the group is at the heart of what is referred to as the ‘new psychology’ of leadership. Rather than cultivating an aura of one’s own superiority, the successful leader will create, promote and bed-in a sense of shared identity in their teams, and endorse the belief that they are members of the same social group.
It’s true isn’t it? We respond best to leaders who are one of us, who demonstrate they are doing what they do for us and that we count.
So, perhaps we need to start reframing from the emphasis on ‘leadership’ to ‘leaderfull’.
The questions therefore that immediately come to mind include:
How much are your leaders walking the talk of shared identity?
Or are they falling in love with their own reflection? And if so, what are the implications for your current leadership and management development programmes?
And finally, as Phil Dooley said, “The best teams are made up of a bunch of nobodies who love everybody and serve anybody and don’t care about becoming a somebody.”