From Competence To Excellence
Wilf Jarvis on the Characteristics of Outstanding Managers
How can competent managers become excellent leaders? Are leaders born or made? Do most of us have potential which, if released, shaped and nurtured, could transform us into outstanding leaders?
For more than 50 years Wilfred Jarvis, an Australian behavioral scientist, has been seeking evidence to help him answer such questions. He believes he has identified many universal truths about leadership, applicable to all societies, with people from all occupations and professions and in every kind of organization. This information was used by him to establish the relationships and techniques of Four Quadrant Leadership. He teaches those principles and practices in many countries around the world.
Research evidence gathered by Jarvis shows that many managers are not regarded as leaders by the people who report to them. Reflecting on these facts he says, "That information stimulates my research for the personal and professional credentials which distinguish true leaders from normal managers, I add the qualification 'true' because the label 'leader' is commonly awarded to anybody who has a position of power."
"One outstanding trait of true leaders is their readiness to accept and deal with the truth even when it includes criticisms of their own decisions and actions. This habit guarantees them a very valuable advantage. Their people tell them the truth because they have learned that honesty is really the best policy."
"I have hundreds of anecdotes from employees who suffered penalties for bringing unpleasant tidings to powerful people in their organizations," says Jarvis. "Sometimes I have met a similar fate as a consultant, after reporting unattractive survey results to senior executives who preferred blissful ignorance to confrontations with uncomfortable facts."
Jarvis has studied hundreds of organizations. These experiences have led him to conclude that in normal organizations, people's ascent to great status and power is primarily determined by their technical skills, their separate achievements and their readiness to mimic the behavior of those who outrank them. They are not required to demonstrate proficiency in the techniques and relationships of effective leadership before being promoted.
He says there are numerous factors which negatively affect a normal manager's endeavors to achieve excellence in leadership. He believes that the following are particularly important:
But Jarvis has been delighted to find that many contemporary managers are superb leaders. Their people willingly form strong teams around them, inspired to work together in expressing common values and questing towards cherished goals which cannot be achieved unless they cooperate persistently with each other and their leaders.
Convinced that the establishment and maintenance of substantial, enduring values and leadership practices in organizations depend mostly on the CEO and senior executives, he has concluded that no enduring progress can be achieved in reducing chronic organizational problems and emphasizing leadership unless people at the top begin the revolution by altering their own behavior, before they ask subordinates to alter theirs.
He says, "Tribal elders shape and reinforce ethos. By their own actions they set the standards and priorities for all employees."
Jarvis designed the system he calls Four Quadrant Leadership after almost four decades of research. During the several decades since he left the academic world he has had constant opportunity to evaluate the benefits gained by organizations whose CEOs and senior executives establish Four Quadrant Leadership as a theme in their ethos.
He comments, "Four Quadrant Leadership clearly specifies the credentials of effective leaders and the nature of the constant relationships they must establish and maintain with the people under their control. It requires leaders to be skilled in evaluating their people's productive skills and constructive energies for each task, and in using that information when determining the levels of authority and responsibility they will give them."
Many beneficial improvements are soon obvious in all work groups where Four Quadrant Leadership is systematically practiced. Wilf's research has shown that these include:
Four Quadrant Leadership is based on timeless unchanging truths which are as relevant now as in any past era. When these principles are consistently applied, competent managers can become excellent leaders.
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