This review first ran in the Dec. 19 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.
Even when doing nothing, disengaged leaders are doing a number on your organization.
Empty chair leadership breeds mediocrity. Problems persist. Projects derail. Morale sinks. High performers bolt and everyone else follows lame leaders in going through the motions.
Vince Molinaro, author of The Leadership Contract and an advisor to senior executives, says we’re suffering from a serious lack of leadership accountability and paying a steep price. Too many of the people getting tapped for leadership roles are woefully unprepared or taking the job for the pay, perks and power.
“We all know that stories of great leaders leading great companies act as beacons of hope but these stories are the minority,” says Molinaro. “More common are stories of empty chair leaders – those who are inept or motivated solely by personal ambition. When our experience of leadership is routinely disappointing, disconnected and disgraceful, we begin to lower our expectations.”
Accountable leaders raise those expectations and build highly engaged workforces by abiding by four terms of a personal leadership contract.
They make the decision to lead and consciously commit to being the best leader they can be. “Too many theories about leadership just assume that everyone wants to be a leader. But this is a faulty assumption – one that we often don’t realize we are making.”
Accountable leaders make an obligation to serve the greater good, putting what’s best for the organization ahead of self-interest. They rise to a new standard of behavior and uphold responsibilities to customers, co-workers and the community.
Accountable leaders commit to working hard. “Leadership can be easy if you’re satisfied with mediocrity,” says Molinaro. When you refuse to do hard work, you become a weak leader. Accountable leaders have resilience, resolve and determination.
And accountable leaders connect and build community with other leaders. These networks and connections foster high levels of trust and mutual support and guard against getting overwhelmed. If another leader asks for help, accountable leaders give it without hesitation.
“These four terms go a long way to addressing the problems with leadership today,” says Molinaro. “We can overcome lame and unaccountable leadership in our organizations when leaders truly understand what it means to be a leader and sign up for the right reasons. It’s no longer good enough to be a complacent or ambivalent leader.”
Along with personal contracts, Molinaro recommends organizations introduce leadership accountability contracts to be signed every time someone moves into an emerging, frontline, mid-level and executive leadership role.
“You cannot stay in your role without signing the leadership contract,” says Molinaro. “If you do, you’ll end up leading in a mediocre way. You will do a disservice to your organization and the people you lead. You will do a disservice to yourself.”
Molinaro maps up daily, quarterly and annual actions for following through on the four terms of a personal leadership contract.
“I believe leading an organization is one of the greatest honours and challenge that any individual can assume. However, it’s not a job for everyone. And there is only one way to ensure that you have what it takes to be a truly accountable leader – you have to make a conscious decision to lead, with full awareness of what that means.”
@jayrobb serves as director of communications for Mohawk College, reviews business books for the Hamilton Spectator and lives in Hamilton.