CareerSherpas: Climbing the Mountain

When you’re on the way, it helps to share the load

Archive for October, 2008

Leadersheep: Where the Flock Leads the Organization

Friday, October 10th, 2008

In working with a client a while ago, they made an interesting Freudian slip when referring to executives as the “Leadersheep”. This led me to think about the concept of leadership in general, and the recognition that this concept of “Leadersheep” at the top of an organization was a surprisingly common theme.

In many cases there seems to be an amount of sheep-like activity driving many organizations as those who are looked to for direction mill around, failing to give real direction. This sense of ambiguity really causes a great deal of anxiety through organizations as individuals attempt to rise to the occasion in addressing issues and opportunities, but don’t have a clear path to give them focus. The end result leaves the unit, department or entire organization in a state of disarray and frustration.

A lack of clear, shared direction, strategy and, in some cases, communication channels delivers the perception that the leaders are not making decisions and not in touch with the reality of the business they are supporting. In some cases I have seen this drive managers to hyper-active micro-management as they pursue less specific goals. Undirected fear and anxiety are then often allowed to derail any and all progress toward improving the fortunes of the organization.

So is there a solution? Definitely.

Individuals in leadership positions need to get a handle on the fundamental problems and requirements of leading. Leaders need to understand what it means to lead, what their followers need from them and how to make sure everyone marches along together. Recently I’ve been reading Bob Lewis’ very slender but highly accurate portrayal of leadership in “Leading IT: The Toughest Job in the World”. While it was originally intended for IT leaders, as the title suggests, the points in it are equally applicable to anybody trying to lead a group of people.

In any case, let’s all work to exercise leadership and not be “Leadersheep”.

Peter Fitzgerald is the founder of and is currently working on his first book, managing a team of project managers, and attempting to learn the bagpipes.