Organisational Development #3

Organisational Development #3

Thinking About Leadership

Organisational Development

Outdoors Queensland encourages our Green Circle Members and other businesses operating in the outdoor sector to review the way they manage their businesses, and provides appropriate easy access resources.

We have developed this set of resources because we believe there is a need for small to medium business in the outdoor sector to improve the way they operate, manage staff, market and present themselves to their potential clients.

We have engaged Andrew Murray, from Applied Adventure, to deliver a series of articles on the topic of Organisational Development and to facilitate a Workshop (see below) to explore the issues, the options and the way forward.

Return to the Organisational Development page


Thinking About Leadership

So far I have written about setting up/developing an organisation, and I’ve mainly done so from the perspective of a small business.  However – no matter what the organisation, be it a Not for Profit, A Charity, A Club, A Local Government or a business, I think there are some commonalities, and I think that what I have presented applies.

Leadership is an interesting term that gets bandied about, used and abused in the Organisational Development literature.  It took me about 25 years in the field to crystallise my thinking about just what leadership is and is not.  Maybe having a look at leadership will reveal some of the common themes in the successful operation of organisations, because – when I look at it, effective leadership appears to do the same across all organisations.

I have arrived at the following definition of leadership:

“Leadership builds and maintains sustainable and productive communities.”

Notice, I have not said “leaders” – because not all designated leaders actually practise leadership – in fact many don’t and not all practitioners of leadership hold positions of power and authority in their organisations.  Many brilliant practitioners of leadership hold no positional power at all yet shape and guide the direction and culture of the organisations to which they belong purely by the practise of great leadership!

Let’s unpack the definition:

Building community involves establishing and articulating a shared purpose around which people can gather, and then continually reminding and reiterating the “WHY” of that community.

Maintaining community means building positive culture, holding oneself and others to account for upholding and observing the underpinning values and for doing their part pursuing the community’s purpose.

Sustainability means reading the community and its environment and responding to change in creative and resilient ways.  Sometimes it means being the initiator of change for the better or the redefining of purpose in order to maintain momentum.  It means having a “finger on the pulse” and taking action in response to community needs or to changes in the external world – sometimes before anyone else in the community realises that action needs to be taken.

Productivity – this is key to all successful organisations – they achieve something! Looked at in a narrow, business sense – productivity always relates or equates to financial gain.  However, in a broader sense, productivity might be measured in different terms like “trees planted”, “hectares revegetated”, “holiday programs conducted”. Sure enough though – what you measure must relate to your purpose, and how well you work towards your purpose will define your productivity!

And finally, although possibly most critical – the matter of “community”.  Researching the term “community” results in a mass of confusing definitions that don’t necessarily help!

How about “A group of people mobilized by a common cause or common causes and characterized by:

  • Shared values and beliefs
  • Positive relationships
  • Reciprocity
  • Shared direction
  • Identity with their community
  • Commitment to their community
  • Shared “stories” relating to their community

Now the function of leadership becomes clearer, because leadership contributes to maintaining sight of the common cause and to ensuring that people are inspired and supported in contributing to and belonging within the community.  Leadership involves making sure that the community stories are accessible to community members and told and retold so as to keep the community together and focussed on working harmoniously towards those goals which relate to the common cause.

Phew!  So how much leadership do you exercise?

And who in your organisation exercises positive leadership?

In my view – the more the merrier.

Andrew Murray
Applied Adventure
0427 740 642

About the Author: Andrew Murray

My name is Andrew Murray.

I have been active in business in the Outdoor Education, Adventure Based Training and Ropes Course Construction/Inspection/Operation arenas for the past 25 years.

As well, I have been fortunate in that many corporate clients have seen the potential of good facilitation for consultancy/indoor work and offered me opportunities to work in the consulting field.

My experience and activity in working “indoors” and “out”  have lead to some phenomenally interesting and rewarding work both in Australia and overseas.

I have worked for some “biggies”, like Boeing Australia; John Deere; Talisman Energy; BHP Billiton; Anglo Coal, Intergen, Coca Cola as well as literally hundreds of small to medium Australian businesses.

In 1988, I did an Associate Diploma in Outdoor Education at BCAE; this was funded by the proceeds of a small business my wife and I owned and operated in NQ for the preceding two years.  She too undertook studies that year.

A happy accident that year was an internship with Project Adventure USA in Hamilton Mass. I spent a month and a half at their facility “The Iron Rail” living in  a hut in the middle of their ropes course and working with such luminaries as Karl Rohnke and Paul Radcliffe.

I went over mainly to learn how to build climbing walls, but fell into a load of education and learning about both ropes course construction and adventure based counselling.

I came back to Australia and started my own business “Applied Adventure” in around 1991.  Shortly afterwards I went into partnership and half owned and operated “Synergy Applied Adventure” until this year, when I decided it was time for a solo run to the finish line.  Applied Adventure, Hitch Consulting and Rope Monkeys Australia are the mechanisms for that run.

During my time in business, I have been fortunate to have some phenomenal mentors and colleagues from whom I have learned heaps, among these are Bob Dick – Organisational Psychologist extraordinaire; Karl Rohnke – all round unbelievable outdoor guru and a host of others.  I have been fortunate in developing a broad repertoire of skills and knowledge in all things business leadership.  While I recognise the critical importance of good management to business success, it is the area of leadership that fascinates me and continues to be the focus of my corporate work.  Broadly speaking, I believe that the primary function of leadership is the development of sustainable and productive community and culture.

Currently I am working part time for a local government in the Northern Rivers as a “Corporate Trainer” and spending my other time on startup of the new businesses and having adventures.

My “formal” qualifications include a Diploma of Primary Teaching; Graduate Diploma Education (Outdoor Ed); Wilderness First Responder First Aid; Work Safe at Heights Supervisor; Confined Space Work; Intermediate Chainsaw Operations….

I am currently working towards a Sea Kayaking Instructors qualification.

I am married with a 23 y/o son and live in the Numinbah Valley.  My interests include everything outdoors, reading, leatherwork and relearning how to ride a motorbike after 40 years out of the saddle.

I am convinced that in this business relationships are everything.  Your network is gold, suppliers and colleagues are as important as clients – and personal connections which are mutually beneficial are what makes work sustainable and satisfying.

My other strong belief is that it’s easy but ultimately unsatisfying to follow the pack.  Creating a “value monopoly” is a smart thing to do whereby what you offer is something that distinguishes you from the pack for some clients who come to you for something that they want and simply can’t get anywhere else!

Andrew Murray
Applied Adventure
0427 740 642

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