The crisis with leadership in the UK is concerning many of us at the present time. Just as our world is in the “white water” of disturbance and uncertainty, leaders have emerged with large egos, the sense of entitlement, narcissistic personalities, passive aggressive behaviours, projections of blame, misogyny, racism, and sadly as a consequence a real lack of understanding of others and their own actions. What we have at the present time is a “power model” of leadership at many levels in our society. This is not a good way for really helping people meet their needs and aspirations.
Most leaders in 2022 work according to a control model with these characteristics:
- Blame and punish people. It is your fault you are in this mess.
- Add rules “must not happen again”. Tighten legislation making life for some ever more insecure. Enact legislation that limits scrutiny by citizens.
- Bolster monitoring and reporting, as leader, trust few people, unless they are beholden to the leader, which results in them toeing the line.
- After severe financial downturn and loss, reduce operating costs (staff transferred to self-employment, or import cheap labour, or reduce hourly rates of pay, resulting in no sick pay, pension contributions etc, and also reduce investments).
- Take bonus and share options as automatic reward.
- Move on to new position before whatever hits the fan.
Others work as the “Professional Manager”, who is geared into “professionalism”, which results in short termism and eye on individual gain for self, working to the view:
- No need for local or product knowledge, an MBA/ right schooling and a sense of entitlement are sufficient. Arrogance with a qualification.
- Results in breakdown of teamwork.
- Fads, “others are doing it”.
- Finance manipulation seen as OK.
- Outsourcing without good controls. So cheaper products, third world exploitation, environmental degradation.
A recent book by Peter Hennessy (2022) lays out the changes since the great post second World War efforts, and resulting changes to our society. In 1942 Sir William Beveridge wrote: “…a revolutionary moment in the world’s history is a time for revolutions, not for patching.” The Beveridge Report of 1942 remains the most comprehensive and striking document which identified ‘five giants on the road to post-war reconstruction’ – Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness. Tackling these giants of Poverty, Health, Education, Housing and Employment was a primary focus of the 1945 government’s social programme and remained important throughout the second half of the 20th century.
Gradually over time, especially since the 1990s that coherence of purpose and vision for everyone and working together for the good for every citizen has been eroded, especially so since the financial crash of 2009. The state has been rolled back, and the “free market” has been in control, profit for self before the vision and strategy for society for the long term. Cut backs everywhere: insecure employment, poor housing replacement, loss of support for families, and loss of free educational opportunities for crafts and practical skills.
Those post-war leaders showed a different style of leadership, closer to the model of servant- leadership, one who serves their community first and leads from different behaviours, and is an alternative positive model to the present crop of this country’s leaders; the prime purpose of such a leader is to help people to grow and learn, promoting team work and a sense of inclusion and longer-term success and enrichment in more ways than just a bottom line.
So, what are the differences between control leaders and servant-leaders?
- Bosses take an authoritarian approach to governance and management. They make the important decisions. They hold unilateral power over their subordinates. They periodically judge the performance of each employee when, how and even if performance reviews happen.
- Servant-leaders use a participatory approach to governance and management. Important decisions are made by group process and consensus. They share their power with others. They ask to be coached and given honest feedback as well as offering the same to those served.
ACCOUNTABILITY AND CONTROL:
- Bosses have accountability and control
- Servant-leaders are first among equals, rather than chiefs. They have accountability without control.
- Bosses work to maintain existing authority and privilege. They focus on meeting the needs of particular stakeholders.
- Servant-leaders practice moral symmetry, striving to balance the legitimate needs of everyone affected. Staff, community, suppliers.
- Bosses focus on taking care of what already is, in their interest.
- Servant-leaders focus on evoking and shaping what is possible.
VIEW OF OTHERS:
- Bosses view subordinates simply as a human resource (means to an end in an organisation).
- Servant-leaders view others as partners and individual expressions of sense of purpose encouraged.
MEANING OF WORK:
- Bosses view work as a transaction, whereby time and energy are exchanged for money, or status and power, or all three.
- Servant-leaders view work as a co-creative act of individuals and community.
So, how can we develop as Servant-Leaders? Especially important in communities of people, a nation, a village, a business, a local authority.