I had a fascinating dinner with a recently retired headteacher this weekend. He started off by asking me about the leadership workshop that I ran last week in San Francisco and also about the launch of Brilliant Leader, my new book. What followed though was a real eye opener for me.
He had headed a school (although it was technically branded as a college) that had developed a genuine leadership culture and delivered staggering outcomes as a result of this. An example he used was the cleaners. They were made aware of the school's vision, what they were trying to achieve, how they were trying to achieve it and most importantly, how their role fitted in with this vision. And this was the case with all staff and students throughout the school.
Everyone was encouraged to be part of the team pulling together to deliver the school's strategy. This included regular performance reviews, career/personal development discussions and an open door to ideas throughout the organisation. And when the school succeeded, the team's success was celebrated. Everyone, including the cleaners, were included in the celebration process. Individual success was also recognised through praise and reward mechanisms.
The net result? Everyone wanted to do well and so they did. Exclusions reduced dramatically, results improved likewise and everyone felt they were part of a community that was succeeding. It became one of the country's stand-out success stories and my dinner colleague spent the last couple of years before his retirement briefing headteachers up and down the country about how he went about developing a leadership culture.
It seems to me that lots of organisations and communities around the world would succeed more if they developed a genuine leadership culture. And the thing is, it really isn't that difficult. People respond to effective leadership. People respond to praise and recognition. People respond to being part of a team.
If the classic command and control environment of a school can produce transformational results by developing a leadership culture, then just imagine what can happen to a commercial organisation that follows this example. And with the threat of economic downturn becoming a reality, I would wager that companies who survive and even thrive in this environment are likely to have a strong leadership culture centred on effective communication, teamworking and recognition mechanisms that reward success.
The only note of caution I would add is that it must start from the top - that's where true leadership begins and it doesn't end until it gets to the bottom of the organisation.
Simon Cooper is Chief Executive of the Experiential Learning Centre, author of Brilliant Leader and architect of the Brilliant Leadership workshops that set new standards in how to build, develop and lead high performing teams as well as helping organisations develop a genuine leadership culture.
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