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The illusion of leadership best practice
This week: Principled leadership, advice from the Green Cross Code man & why best practice is a myth
Photo by Nadir sYzYgY on Unsplash
Want some leadership advice? If you search for ‘leadership best practice’ Google has over 5 billion results, just for you.
That’s a lot of best practice. So it begs the question, which really is the best?
The irony of what we call ‘best practice’ is that it only really applies in the best or perfect case situation. As a leader, unless you’re working with robots, you’ll be leading humans who at their very best are unpredictable and rarely conform to norms of behaviour.
The additional conundrum is that so called ‘best practice’ is retrospective. It’s based entirely on what’s worked well in the past.
But what it now takes to be a leader in todays VUCA world is phenomenal and it’s still changing, fast.
The pace of change, the volatility and unpredictability means the rule book is out the window and the skills and knowledge that got you to where you are today probably won’t get you where you need to go in the future. Over the last two years those who have always deferred to the rule book have quickly found themselves feeling like they’re trapped in a maze with no way out.
Today, many of the challenges that I spend time helping leaders unpick and resolve are unprecedented. There is no best practice to rely on.
In these newsletters I won’t tell you what to do or what ‘best practice’ is. My intention is to be provocative and to challenge you to think. In leadership, you spend most of your time focussed on action and doing. In reading this I’m inviting you to spend a few moments each week to pause, reflect and move forward with a little more focus.
Here are four things to help you this week.
Concept: As you progress through your career you’ll start to create your own set of leadership tools. The challenge then becomes about how you continue to add to and sharpen your toolkit and identify which tools to use in the situations that you’re presented with.
This is one of the models I use with clients to explore how they identify which leadership practices are right for them and their business.
How much do you challenge and question what you know about ‘best practice’ as a leader?
Do you naturally lean towards a particular circle in the model above? How does that serve you?
As a business and leadership team how well are you set up to debate and question accepted ‘norms’?
Read: I’ve just started re-reading Edward de Bonos book ‘Think! Before it’s too late’ about creative problem solving. De Bono was the creator of the ‘lateral thinking’ concept and his central premise is that we are now so accustomed to readily available information online, that we search immediately for instructions on what we should do, rather than thinking about the answers. It’s a great read that can help you find creative ways to explore possibilities and look beyond what already exists.
Insight: At the start of the pandemic I heard super-coach David Peterson talk about principles. It really stuck with me. He suggested that in the absence of knowing what to do, you should think about the principles that are important to you and use those as a foundation to guide you. What principles guide the way you lead?
You can read more about how to identify your own guiding principles and get a free tool to help you, here:
Wise words: The American philosopher Sam Keen once said the only best practice is to follow the advice posted on every railroad crossing; and it reminded me of the Green Cross Code that almost every child in the UK grew up learning. Stop, look, listen, think. When navigating the unknown, I wonder if this could just be the best leadership advice around. What could you do with it?
Thanks for reading this. If you found it thought-provoking, please share it with someone you know.