This was a question put to me by a senior leader in one of the organisations I work with. It prompted me to do some thinking…

Why do we focus on individual Leadership development in organisations?  The answer is to improve the ability for individuals in Leadership positions to be more effective with people (people orientation).  The assumption is that more effective people in an organisation will enhance the overall success of the organisation.

Why would we choose not to focus on individual Leadership development? Anybody working in an operational space, whether it be service based or manufacturing, will tell you that overall success requires efficient operations (task orientation).  The assumption is that more efficient operations will enhance the overall success of the organisation.

Both effectiveness and efficiency can be argued as being necessary conditions for a successful organisation.

The dilemma is that there is always a compromise that occurs when there is pressure to focus on Leadership and there is a pressure not to focus on Leadership (because we want to focus on efficiency of operations).  The result of this compromise will create an inconsistency that is likely to lead to a range of undesirable effects and will ultimately have a negative impact on the success of the organisation as a whole.

So, what are our choices?

We could live with this compromise and learn to put with mediocre or just OK results.

We could try to get the efficiency without effective Leadership or people.  This is strictly a numbers game that is unlikely to be sustainable in the long term.


We could ensure that Leadership development focuses on Leaders being both task and people orientated.

Human Synergistics International has a significant volume of evidence to support this notion.  Their evidence demonstrates that Leaders that have a balance between task and people orientation and are more driven towards satisfaction over security are perceived to be better leaders.  Their organisations tend to get better results.

The answer to the question is not a matter of degree but a question of content.  Any leadership development program that encourages a balance between task orientation and people orientation is more likely to be successful for the organisation as a whole.

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