Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Effective Leadership Begins with a Strong Foundation


Guest post from Tabitha Laser:

What is leadership?  Since joining the workforce more than 25 years ago, and serving as a leader for numerous organizations, it’s apparent that leadership means very different things to different people.  Simply put, leadership is the art of inspiring, motivating, empowering, supporting, and assuring a group of people to act towards achieving a common goal.  Unfortunately, the term is often confused with management, which can be defined as the process of dealing with or controlling things or people.

Why, in our current environment, is there confusion around these two terms and does what makes a strong leader still exist? 

Part of the problem lies with our current misconception around how organizations are led.  A day doesn’t go by where I don’t read or hear the term “led from the top.” This is what I believe to be a ‘deadly practice’ because it creates unhealthy competition, acts as a barrier for growth, and limits an organization’s ability to achieve sustainable success.  Allow me to elaborate on that.

Imagine your organization as a building, where its leaders are at the roof of the building.  Now imagine the workforce, processes, and equipment as the walls, fixtures, and foundation of the organization below, and your customers, market factors, and environment as the external pressures being applied to your building. 

If your building is made of bricks, picture the three little pigs’ scenario. Your organization will be able to survive quite a beating.  If your building, on the other hand, is made of straw, then it’s likely your organization will succumb to the slightest pressure.  

Regardless of your building’s strength, when your leadership forms the roof of the organization, you are creating a situation where they are practically forced to take on more of a “management” role that one of “leadership,” making it extremely difficult for that organization to grow.  In some cases, there has been growth; however, it has been as a result of falsifying data, back-stabbing, and other counterintuitive behaviors. That’s not a sustainable way to grow any business.

So, how can we fix this conundrum?  

First, we need to flip the script, and start requiring leaders to lead from the basement.  Not just from the bottom up, but from the basement.  They need to be the ones who define success, illustrated by the location for the organization and the expectations necessary to achieve success, which form the foundation for the organization.  When organizations are led from the basement, the challenge to build around them to grow is eliminated, and the building is encouraged to innovate, experiment, and expand far beyond the organization’s expectations for success.  Only then leaders will be properly positioned to truly spearhead their organization and provide the inspiration, motivation, empowerment, support, and assurance necessary to sustainably grow without limitations.  In other words, 

“The sky is the limit for a roofless building built on a strong foundation.”

When organizations are led from the basement, management is ultimately unnecessary.  This is a difficult pill for most to swallow, but a necessary step every organization needs to consider if they want to survive and thrive long into the future!


Tabitha Laser is a multi-faceted professional with over 25 years of leadership experience in a wide variety of industries ranging from oil and gas, energy, manufacturing, agriculture, construction and many more. Her diverse background has provided her with numerous opportunities to work with government agencies and some of the world’s largest companies, including Fortune 500 companies like BP, 3M, and General Mills. 
Her experience and education have fueled her passion to help shape the next generation of leaders, especially millennials, to avoid the pitfalls of their predecessors and lead beyond best.  Tabitha is the author of the book, Organization Culture Killers.  This is the first in a series of leadership books she calls “The Deadly Practices.”

1 comment:

jeremylpeterson.business.blog said...

Tabitha this was very well said. I especially like your description of leadership, and the visual you paint of an organization led from the top down and bottom up.