Organisational Development #3

Organisational Development #3

Thinking About Leadership

Posted on 08.11.2018

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.

Read more on 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



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