Be wary (and perhaps a bit suspicious) when communication and/or leadership are determined to be the root cause of the ineffectiveness of an organization. One reason reasoning for this is simple: each means one thing and each means everything. Each are essentially empty holes, i.e., like gravity, each are a black box of explanation–it labels something but doesn’t provide clarity or distinction in order to do anything about it. When one starts climbing down the communication and/or leadership hole, one quickly finds there is no bottom.

Here’s a litmus test: choose either communication or leadership and then ask this question: “what do we mean by leadership?” First, the fact that one needs to ask the question points to the reality that the word is unclear and, therefore, not helpful in impacting people’s action or behavior. Second, you would likely find that if you ask eight executives independently that same question you will receive eight answers. ‘Leadership’ points to many things, but it does not point to just one thing … that is not useful when trying to impact an overriding culture and/or condition.

When an executive team asserts ‘what is missing is leadership (or communication, for that matter)’ they are typically pointing to a smorgasbord of many things, which together provide for the meal. Some of those elements are: taking a stand for beyond business-as-usual results, speaking up with ideas and or what is not working, clear accountabilities in work roles and expectations, bold goal pursuit, dogged approach to getting things done, risk-taking owning the success of the whole (even if that’s not your overall job) willing to be held to account

  • Not hiding from failures or performance issues
  • Demonstrating executional acumen
  • Catalyzing collaborative conversations
  • Getting the job done… no matter what
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