When only numeric performance is rewarded after discounting of correlated behaviours of roles, rot sets in within the top echelons of the organizations. We nurture ruthless non-collaborative derailing behaviours unknowingly which ultimately deteriorate the quality of leadership at the top of the pyramid. It is thus a no-brainer that many companies miss the bus of remaining at the top of the best list over a sustained period of the time owing to fault lines in leadership corridors that develop over a period of time. It is thus interesting to study the rise of the individualistic performers within the organizations who ultimately trigger the process of decay and hence the downfall of the glorious business empire.
The approach of over emphasizing and rewarding performance without due recognition to leadership behaviours is the starting point of the cultural decay. When the entire idea of assessment right from the bottom of the pyramid is based on numbers, a mercenary oriented outlook sets in. Overemphasis on numbers creates non-collaborative, intensely competitive workplace behaviour. To top it all, education systems are based on competitive reward systems and the organization culture feeds to it. People wire themselves with derailing behaviours and deliver performance in spite of conducive behaviours that they know they need to demonstrate. They thus become the undesired role models for others to mirror and emulate.
Over a period of time, these number driven professionals make it to the top. They start rewarding the same number driven behaviours, and thus the decay now sets in across the organization. We now have a culture of singular performers who play to win alone. This has a disastrous impact through the layers of the organization. The core definition of leadership now takes the form of status and territorial power. The approach to reward control and micro-management takes precedence over authentic competence, influence and warmth. This leads to a norm of produce or perish and hire & fire. Performance, however, depends upon numerous business exigencies and when they play up these leaders cannot bail the ship out as “shared leadership” was never practised. During times of crisis, individualistic behaviours & skill-sets accentuate, and the ship starts to sink. The problem is since the learnt behaviours are the derailing ones they emphasize during turbulent times and the catastrophic outcomes become inevitable. Have we not witnessed the best of the brands vanish from the business canvas of markets owing to ethical and leadership inefficacies.
Organizations will continually encounter the noise of these derailing behaviours. However, since the decision makers are the ones responsible for the same not much is done for its correction. The organizations which did manage a turnaround were the ones with a strong-willed board or CEO who recognised this reality and then started the process of transformation of behaviours at the top. I have mostly seen two approaches, i.e. start futile change investment at the bottom and middle of the pyramid or reform behaviours at the top. The latter is always a successful strategy.
This transformation process at the top must comprise of the following steps:
- Administer a validated and reliable psychometric tool that measures leadership facets of individual leaders and compares them on a relative scale of the cohort group. This helps see personal anomalies and noise.
- The result of the psychometric assessment must be backed up with behavioural data from stakeholders. This increases the acceptability of the results and creates a wakeup call.
- A list of new behaviours for transformation must then be ascertained for each individual leaders with a conducive environment for their consolidation.
- People analytics dashboards must be put into action for recording, sustaining and rewarding positive behavioural changes.
- Leaders must be then made responsible to cascade the process of behavioural change across the pyramid.
- A professional coach is a must proposition to assist and stabilize behavioural change.
- Reward & recognition must then provide due weight to desired Leadership behaviours to sustain the culture and eliminate potential risks of entropy.
It thus becomes the responsibility of the person at the top to arrest the decay of behaviours that may set it. Leadership behaviours must be documented in the form of a framework, and senior leadership must be continually groomed to sustain them. A regular Leadership culture audit helps timely identification of noise that may set in. If you wish to build organizations that are focused on sustainable growth, it is imperative to arrest the decay at the top in time and correct them as soon as possible. We live in a world of cause and effect, and our behaviours ultimately shape our world. It is time now that organizations move from transactional leadership to transformational leadership behaviours.
The million dollar question therefore is, are you auditing and shaping success behaviours at the top of the pyramid? Afterall the price to pay is too high.