Stability in a Leadership Team

Stability in a Leadership Team May 4, 2018

Let us praise continuity and the leaders that provide it!

In the marvelous television show Victoria and Albert, the Duke of Wellington confronts a complainer who hates the hard-work, competence, and stability being brought to the court by Albert. “He is not fun.” The Duke turns on the complainer and says gruffly: “He may not be your idea of fun or my idea of fun, but if he buys the monarchy another hundred years, then I say, ‘God save Prince Albert.’”

Britain did not face the upheavals of France (Empire, Republic, Empire, Republic), partly because Albert exchanged the exhausting and silly churn in the court for loyalty and stability. Victoria herself kept living, working with a slowly changing team around her, and so incarnated this idea.

The present Queen, who has surpassed Victoria’s longevity, has also been a source of continuity to Britain. Of course, she does not have to pick her ministers, so when churn lower down has happened, rocking the nation, the Queen was not to blame. Calmly carrying on is her job and she does it very well.

Other leaders, whether presidents of nations or leaders of businesses, churches, non-profits, or educational institutions, are not so blessed. We must provide stability by our choices.  My dad always said: “Get a team. Be loyal. Let them do their jobs.” This is good advice for all of life. Somewhere around your fourth failed marriage, the problem is almost certainly you. If you keep churning a team in your workplace, the problem is not the incompetents that keep appearing in the office, but the incompetent who comes every day.

That’s not an argument for stagnation.

I have seen leaders keep the same team too long and stay in office five years past “sell by.”  That happens and it is bad particularly if it is the result of an old-boy/girl network that does not measure performance. However, more common is to see an organization churn leaders to preserve the top or to avoid accountability.

There was an old Russian saying that the tsar was never to blame, shuffle the ministers. This makes some sense, because changing tsars is a big move while one can shuffle the cabinet easily. “Bring in the new prime minister!” does not have to include “Off with his head” being said to the old prime minister.

Yet sometimes no new minister can help a bad tsar. He is simply Tsar the Terrible.

The same thing is true in any organization. Good leaders have stable teams.

As a pastor’s kid whose dad got this right, I saw him work hard for a core team that would change over time, but not without keeping the organizational DNA intact. In higher education, my own field, there are schools that run as a “valley with fear” (See Arthur Conan Doyle) with high turnover in key roles and others that are stable.

No surprise: stability is better.

Why?

Every change brings a chance of different vision or strategy. Prince Albert knew his role, knew what the United Kingdom was (fundamentally), and did his job. He was not looking for a new approach, methods, or ideology. Changes could be revolutionary without causing revolution!

Every key change takes time for the new person to learn the system. Many times the change is just new problems for old. There is also the possibility that the churn is covering up for a deeper institutional problem. It is not just rats that leave a sinking ship. Everyone who can does as well.

Captain Smith could have sacked his officers, but the hole in the ship? Still there.

Let us praise the “no fun” Prince Alberts in our midst and hope we get to work for them!

 

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Today is the third anniversary of the birth of The Saint Constantine School, described as revolutionary by the CS Monitor. One way we are not revolutionary is the stability of our board, vision, methods, and leadership team. We have visionary patrons and a Board that has kept us all around demonstrating the very stability that makes growth possible. The same group that was there on May 5, 2015 is still running things May 5, 2018. God willing that will continue for a few more years . . .and yes, I am already planning when to retire!


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