The primary learning source about “leadership” is emulation. The phenomenon is referred to as biomimicry by evolutionary biologist, Dr. Tamsin Woolley-Barker, in her bestseller, Teeming. Many “leadership development” investments aren’t what they’re cracked up to be, and all are dependent upon extraordinary role models. In general, the persistence of the American workforce being 70% disengaged reflects poorly on mediocre top-of-the house leadership.
Executive leadership is continuously subject to being watched, contemplated, emulated. The engine of performance — organizational culture — is a reflection of executive leadership. Common sense tells us organizations that mimic greed, and superficiality will become disengaged, not engaged. This tendency toward disengagement is even greater in organizations that lack a substantial higher purpose. Superficial and greedy executive leaders rarely have an elevating higher purpose, despite their self-absorbed protests. They are especially challenged to achieve and sustain human brilliance.
So, what is an organization to do that finds itself stuck with such poor reflections? I believe the best investment to reverse this type of underperformance is to change the emulation perspective of “chief executive officer” radically. Bring in from the outside a fully adult CEO — one who skillfully embraces human potential throughout the organization and among all stakeholders, not just shareholders.
Doubters might look at the story of 100-year-old Hilton Worldwide, crowned by Fortune Magazine and Best Place to Work Institute as the Best Company to Work For in America. Hilton Worldwide has 18 brands and over 62,000 employees. (Note: Hilton’s stock is up about 480% from its IPO price in 2013.) The recruitment in 2007 of CEO Chris Nassetta — and what has happened under his guidance — is an illustration of abundant human brilliance. Among Hilton employees, Nassetta is known for tirelessly, creatively, and personally elevating Hilton employees and the Hilton culture, with great respect. As a rule, organizational culture is a reflection of the CEO. To understand Hilton’s strong performance first focus on Chris Nassetta, then proceed to emulate consciously!