In consulting with organisations, I sometimes hear the following statements by employees of their respective managers:

  • “One of my colleagues always underperforms, putting pressure on the whole team, but my boss never addresses the issue”
  • “My boss always tells us that there is nothing he can do about a particular decision as it comes from head office”
  • “My boss is a follower – there is never direction, vision or passion from him”

The above statements suggest a deep desire within employees to be well led by managers who are fair, vision-focused, goal-driven and performance-oriented. Such leadership behaviour seems to bring security, focus and energy into what would otherwise be a haphazard and confusing environment. Employees need some form of “big-picture” direction, encouragement, an understanding of the role that they need to play within the team (and corresponding performance expectations), a sense of belonging and reliable resources to do their jobs well. They don’t always get this input, with fushionless leadership often being the cause.

The word “fushionless” is an adjective of Scottish origin, meaning ‘weakness’ in relation to the following categories:

  • Of flowers: without sap or pith, dried and withered
  • Of food and beverage: without taste, insipid, lacking in nourishing or invigorating qualities
  • Of speakers: lacking substance, dull, flat and uninspiring
  • Of people, physically: weak, without energy or stamina, powerless
  • Of people, ethically or mentally: without backbone, spineless, spiritless, faint-hearted, lacking vigour or ability

Fushionless leadership, therefore, is hardly leadership at all – lacking vision, focus, energy, fairness, the ability to tackle tough issues, inner strength and the desire to succeed. This weak leadership confuses, debilitates and disempowers those who are part of the team. It undermines any form of previously-held trust and creates an environment of suspicion. It breeds toxicity and dampens spirits. It is not motivational in any degree or form. It is disheartening.

The leadership set of skills required to grow an environment marked by vision, performance, accountability, security, contribution, quality and in which people feel valued includes the following abilities:

  1. A profound understanding of the organisational “big picture” – this vision should be well-articulated, constantly referred to and visual.
  2. A liveable set of values – leading by example and demonstrating how the values influence everything that we do, including decision-making, customer service, relationships, product quality, collaboration, etc.
  3. Evenness – no dramatic emotional fluctuations in relation to circumstances, but rather a calmness and consistency in everyday behaviour.
  4. Firmness in relation to performance and quality – not dictatorship, but an unwillingness to settle for anything less than the best.
  5. Relative ease of moving into ambiguous territory – the ability to facilitate change, conflict, differences of opinion, new ideas, challenges, etc.
  6. Decisiveness – an openness to suggestions combined with the inner strength to make difficult decisions.
  7. Care – a compassionate heart that looks after the well-being of all in the team. Appreciation is showed and good work is recognised.

Fushionless leadership leaves no positive impact – in fact, it breeds a cultural toxicity with devastating effect on the organisation. Inspiring leadership, on the other hand, nurtures an environment of performance, accountability, contribution, discretionary effort and security.

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