Why Visionary Leadership Fails


At Royall we were very interested to read this recent article on why visionary leadership fails and would love to hear any views.....

The authors of the Harvard Business Review article 'report on their research into strategic change and the fact that visionary leadership is widely seen as a key to its success. They found that the positive effect of visionary leadership breaks down when middle managers aren’t aligned with the senior management’s strategic vision. This can lead to delays in strategic change or even failure.

Visionary leadership is not only essential for those at the top of an organisation but it’s as important for managers lower down and associates as they play the key role in carrying out the strategic change. Managers need to inspire their own teams and ensure strategic alignment.

The authors studied two service organisations in Western Europe that were both undergoing strategic change. Creating strategic alignment was a high priority for both. Several parameters were assessed – visionary leadership, strategic alignment of the team, and strategic alignment of the mangers with top management.

Their findings were clear. When middle managers were aligned with company strategy, visionary leadership was a positive force. However, when a manager’s version diverged from the company’s, then it actually became a negative force; the managers created confusion and uncertainty and actually disengaged their teams from the company position.

The authors caution us against what is common practice in many companies. Visionary leadership is seen as critical competency for senior management and yet somehow it is assumed that those implementing the strategic change will align simply due to their position. This alignment cannot be assumed.

Finally, the authors recommend that companies should create strategic alignment among middle management before strategy implementation. This should not be a single communication but a continuous dialogue, “people will only take ownership of strategic change if they are consistently persuaded by its value”

What we find helps in our own organisation when it comes to driving developmental and strategic objectives, is to unite to a shared purpose and give people opportunity to make a meaningful contribution. Can all levels get involved in developmental and strategic objectives? Is it possible for organisations to provide, resource, time and permission for all to be involved even if only a little, regardless of the size of the organisation? So, people can contribute to the holistic, social and financial wealth of the organisation, like they do here in Royall, and not just production and profit? We would love to hear any views…

Reference: Harvard Business Review 'Why Visionary Leadership Fails.' February 28th 2019


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