Thursday, February 14, 2008

Can you outsource leadership?

How committed does the leader really need to be to the firm in order to be effective? Could someone who has a very limited political stake in the outcomes of various initiative actually be more effective than one who has that stake?

My experience is that, at very senior levels, even outsiders become very committed to the goals of the organization. In essence the only real difference is in the details of how the individual gets paid. The days of "company loyalty" playing a big role in motivation are, I think, gone forever. Even senior leaders know that their tenure is probably going to be measured in months (as in 18-24 months) not in years... and certainly not in decades. They are not going to be highly focused on things like legacy and their place in company folklore.

Outsourcing middle managers could be more problematic since their effectiveness could be limited by their lack of hands-on company experience. But you'll run into the same problem with a newly hired permanent employee into such a position. And a true outsider isn't going to get terribly distracted by the corporate drama and power-plays that take place in every corporate environment in the western world.

Some of the line staff may question whether having an outsider in a leadership position is a good idea. And certainly, it's a bit out of the mainstream for the way American business commonly work. But does that make it a bad idea?

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