Achieving Organisational Excellence – time and commitment

No organisation to my certain knowledge has become instantly excellent. For most if not all it requires time, determination, focus, a clear plan and consistent leadership. I thought this was summed up very well by the British Quality Foundation’s Patron, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal when she stated recently:

“Achieving excellence is neither a quick nor an easy undertaking. It requires a long term commitment by an organisation to constantly improve everything that it does. The fruits of this commitment will be better leadership, more engaged staff, improved processes, happier and more loyal customers and, ultimately, better results across the board”.

Well done your Royal Highness! What a role model leader of excellence you are!


I seldom venture into controversial territory these days but something I read earlier this week so incensed me that I felt compelled to seize the keyboard and tap out something on the subject of leadership. The article – a blog actually – that I read inferred that the writer considered that we, as people,  do not need leadership or management….to quote his words, “animals are led”, “machines are managed”! My first thought was to dismiss this as the rantings of a lunatic, and I would have done so were it not for the fact that the writer has a ‘following’ and sells books.

Now of course there are almost as many different definitions of leadership as there are grains of sand in the desert so I can only draw on my own experience….something which I wish the writer of the offending blog had done.  The best line ‘manager’ from my perspective that I had as my ‘boss’, (of about 14 over a nearly 30 year period), quickly recognised that I needed little “management”,  as by then I was not only fairly competent at my work but in many respects had become almost certainly unmanageable. Rather he recognised that what I needed from him was effective leadership – a clear and shared vision of where we were going, what we were trying to achieve and why, and support and encouragement on ‘the journey’ there. Also timely recognition of the sort that he knew I appreciated best – the simple “thank you; well done” variety. And that experience, for me, encompasses what true leadership is all about – establish a clear picture of what we are trying to achieve, why and by when, communicate and gain understanding and buy-in to it, show people how and where they contribute to it; support, encourage, and stimulate them on the journey to achievement; provide timely recognition along the way where deserved.

The wisest king so far, Solomon, one whose achievements were widely recognised throughout the world, memorably said, “where there is no vision, the people perish”. He was a truly effective leader, for his vision and the achievement of it had such an effect that he was admired by all, including those who implemented it – the ‘subjects’ of the kingdom. One fellow sovereign who doubted the report she’d heard about him came to see for herself. What she found was that “the half had not been told her” and all those who today we would call stakeholders, including the kings’ subjects and other sovereigns with whom he had formed alliances, (partnerships in todays’ business language!) were content and happy. When was this? 10 years ago? 25? 100? No! Nearly 3000!!  True leadership – of PEOPLE not animals – what it is and what it achieves, hasn’t changed much over the centuries………