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Let’s not be so CALM

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From time to time, I encounter organizations that have some sort of “Authentic Leadership” or “Servant Leadership” initiative.

What differentiates these “leadership” (note the quotes) paradigms from others, is the primacy of  focus on the well being of the individual and the team within an organization.

Here is CALM:  ( I have made some highlights in blue)

As part of the Authentic Leadership, CALM  is “The Collaborative Authentic Leadership Model”.  The term Authentic Leadership sounds hokey but it is an approach to leadership based on self-knowledge, passion, integrity, consistency, and concern for others.

CALM places a value on:

  • Trust—the degree to which team members can be counted on to act in the best interests of the other team members.
  • Transparency—the degree to which there is clarity of purpose and intention behind decisions and actions.
  • Openness and realism—the degree to which team members are dealing honestly and directly with challenges and needs, both team and personal.
  • Fairness and respect—the degree to which team members are treated fairly, regardless of rank or role.
  • Inspiration—the degree to which there is understanding of what is important to each team member and a culture of support for helping each member realize his or her potential.

CALM is designed to:

  • Be invitationalCALM is something a team volunteers to sign up for, rather than something that is imposed on it from above or outside.
  • Be local—CALM can be employed within a team independent of what other organizations choose to do.
  • Apply to everyone at any level—CALM is not just for people in management positions or situational leadership roles. Collaborative Authentic Leadership arises out of personal influence, which is fueled by an individual’s passion, trust, empathy, and desire to act in the best interest of others.
  • Be ready for practical application—CALM does not depend on professional coaches or expensive “retooling” investments. CALM addresses the team-based project, organizational, and service context, including the types of challenges inhibiting authentic work environments.
  • Take a holistic viewpoint—The CALM framework covers personal development as well as team development, and the means are provided to help individuals extend CALM to their non‑business spheres of activity if they so wish.
  • Be flexible—CALM should be judiciously applied. Elements in each CALM dimension can be adapted to the degree that suits the business situation, team culture, and individual goals.

The Take

I’ve seen this several times times now.  What I can say, based on experience,  is that these sorts of leadership paradigms generally originate from the lower parts of the organization.  In large global publicly-held corporations Authentic Leadership and Servant Leadership are far from the first choice of a leadership style embraced by the executive management team for the organization.

At best, senior leadership gives lip service to these paradigms.  You may hear about these programs and read about them in the glossy publications for public consumption but they are seldom acted upon or implemented.  If an organization has programs and initiatives with names that sound like “employee first”, “voice of the employee”.. well, that’s a company that is trying to get its “employee engagement” scores up.

Can you handle the truth?

Authentic Leadership, Servant Leadership and similar models and paradigms stress the well-being of the individual in the organization.  The truth of the matter is, for a publicly held company, the well-being of the owners of the company are of primary importance and you have a Board of Directors that are there to ensure that this is indeed the case.  Publicly held companies are on a treadmill to produce results and report on those results in 3 month intervals (quarterly SEC 10-K).  The great thing about capitalism is that those companies that are not competitive are dismantled and the resources are re-distributed to those that can make better economic use of those resources.

If a company where to embrace the CALM value system, then…

  1. How would you ever fire anyone for poor performance or incompetency? “… team members can be counted on to act in the best interests of the other team members.”.  Team members should be counted on to act in the best interest of the owners of the company – not themselves or their other team members.
  2. How would you build high-performance teams?  “… team members are dealing honestly and directly with challenges and needs, both team and personal.”  If a team member has personal challenges, then maybe that team member has to be let go for the good of the team.
  3. “…understanding of what is important to each team member and a culture of support for helping each member realize his or her potential.”  For whom does a company exist?  Does the company exist for the employees or are the employees there for the benefit of the company and its owners?
  4. “…is fueled by an individual’s passion, trust, empathy, and desire to act in the best interest of others.”  Employee’s first or owners first?

Under the CALM system how could you downsize a company due to shrinking demand for products or services?  How could you close divisions because a product line is obsolete (e.g. photographic film processing, traditional print media, travel agents, booksellers, etc.).  If you strictly embraced the CALM value system then how could a company compete in a global marketplace and with rapid technological change if they put incumbent employee welfare and job security first as opposed to meeting the challenges with “workforce optimization” (code word) and corporate transformation?

As soon as employee’s at every level, including the C-Suite realize, that a company does not exist for them then the better off they will be.  Especially, when trying to understand why you got fired, laid off, offered early retirement, otherwise terminated.

CALM seems more of a recipe to further employee personal self-interest.  The losers seem to be the organizations customers and owners when their interests and their satisfaction play a subordinate role to employee well-being, self-interest, and job security.

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Written by frrl

September 21, 2012 at 5:48 pm

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