Trojan Horse

Leadership – a Trojan horse in transforming a business?

We all know the story about the Trojan horse? Basically the Greeks had been laying siege to Troy for 10 years. The Greeks needed to bring the siege to an end, built a large wooden horse and hid troops inside it, and left it outside Troy when they pretended to sail away. The Trojans then pulled the horse inside Troy as a trophy. Overnight the Greek troops climbed out of the Trojan Horse and opened the gates, allowing the rest of the Greek forces (who had returned under cover of darkness) to enter Troy and end the stalemate.

Local and central government from Hampshire County Council to the Highland Council, and most private and third-sector organisations in between and globally are going through significant transformations.

We all know that managing transformational change is tough (and so is operational management). There are so many challenges for everyone involved in the transformation from engaging with and managing stakeholders, finding the funding, dealing with the technical and operational issues, maintaining governance and control….

Sitting in the middle of this somewhere are the leaders. In other articles I have written about the qualities of a leader in managing change, and where the visibility and the skills of leaders will severely impact an organisation’s ability to transform.

Of course, leaders come in various guises. There is the leader who is expected to lead because they have an organisational status or specific role – I would lump directors and senior managers, project and programme managers and suchlike in this category. Often just as important are the change makers, the people who become leaders not necessarily because of status or role, but because they are great leaders. The change makers will understand the change, will understand the benefits (and probably drawbacks) of undertaking the change, but put themselves forward as exponents and leaders, working with stakeholders to drive the transformation and make it as successful as it can be.

Every consultancy or large organisation has its basic change and transformation methodology – at The Change Maker Group ours is the DELTA model. Most of these methodologies identify leadership as a component of successful change delivery (the ‘L’ in DELTA is the ‘LEAD’ phase) but so many change programmes interpret this component as ‘having leaders’ rather than ‘being leaders’ as it is a quick tick in a large box. Not everyone expected to fulfil the role is actually a good Leader – they may be a great technical or operational manager and they may have the ‘role’ and badge of leader, but like the Trojan Horse, are they really a Leader?

Rather than simply list the attributes of an effective leader, here are some of the things that a good leader would need to exhibit in a successful transformation;

  • Build trust and rapport with all stakeholders, acting with integrity.
  • Support the participants in the change.
  • Help fix issues.
  • Communicate, communicate, and communicate.
  • Demonstrate accountability, being visible.
  • Provide strategic and/or operational direction.

These are skills and attributes that most people learn and build with experience, and as I noted above don’t necessarily require organisational status.

At The Change Maker Group we always make sure the LEAD phase of DELTA is as prominent as any other group of activities. It might be that it is as simple as get the Leaders the information they need in order for them to lead. However, more often than not success is better assured by developing leaders with training and development, and personal and technical coaching. With these types of leadership development programmes people are trained or coached to understand how to be a great leader, how to lead themselves and their teams and also how to lead through change.  With associated personal coaching they have a ready means of getting support or advice when they need it. There are many ways of achieving leadership development, and it is not all about classroom training and it doesn’t need to add substantially to your transformation timeline!

Most readers will be comfortable with the assertion that without effective leadership, transformational change failure is pretty much guaranteed. In my view supporting leaders in their development pays dividends in managing change (and in day-to-day operations) as it will enable them to better lead through the change. This is the same whether they be leaders because of their organisational status or because they are highly-engaged Change Makers.

Whether you are in Hampshire or the Highlands, this really is like the Trojan Horse in the middle of a transformation – it looks like a leader, but is it really a LEADER?

David Walker is a Change Maker and programme management professional. To find out more about how he and other Change Makers could help you book a call.