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Leader Shifts 10 - CONFORMITY to CHARACTER

This is the tenth in a series of posts which articulate fundamental shifts in leadership paradigms from the 20th to the 21st century.

In the 20th Century context of enforcement and policies, “leaders” expected “followers” to conform. Behaviour was shaped by written rules and codes of compliance. The system supported the power of the hierarchy and the majority of people could be expected to adhere to ”the way we do things around here”. These expectations and social pressures created boundaries which kept people in line and made monitoring and control simpler. It wasn’t only ”followers” who were driven by the code. Leaders also conformed to socially established norms which supported the role and rule culture. They became adept at ”managing performance”, running “high performing teams”, “creating certainty” and “driving results”. Conformity to the code required enormous and exhausting effort both to deliver outcomes and to hide failure, uncertainty and weakness.

Despite decades of rhetoric and challenge from academics and people-focused practitioners, the age of conformity is far from over. It still makes sense to too many people and it is undeniably simpler when it works. However, in the 21st Century, as controls and hierarchies are challenged and business awakens to a more human orientation, automatic adherence to external controls is becoming increasingly incongruent. The illusion of conformity is also becoming harder to sustain, as public scrutiny and social visibility increase. The best leaders are exhibiting and expecting behaviour driven by personal character and internally-shaped values. Leader credibility is becoming far less dependent on going with the flow to fit into a mould. More and more reputation needs to be founded on admirable qualities which set people apart from the crowd, such as courage, integrity, equality, humility, responsibility, vulnerability and honour.

#AstuteLeaders build their credibility on their personal character. They are respected because they are transparent, admirable people whose behaviour is naturally congruent with a strong personal moral code and value system.

Reflection question: As an Astute Leader, how can you ensure that people choose to allow you to influence them because they respect and appreciate your character and values?

Register for the #AstuteLeaderProgramme, commencing 29 September 2022 -

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