If you search the earliest references for leadership - you will see that the Bible talks about it. So the leadership concept has been around for a few thousand years, give or take. While the descriptive words have changed, many, if not most, leadership principles haven’t changed all that much.
Leadership is about three things: understanding and clearly articulating where you are going, effectively sharing why you are taking the business there, and PEOPLE (because you can’t get there alone).
Let’s look at each of these to ponder and consider alternate viewpoints.
Knowing where you are going is about the overall business strategy and the culture (the environment in which you want to work).
While developing a risk-balanced strategy based on potential and marketplace realities may be challenging; it is essential to grow and stay in business. It is even more critical to clearly articulate this strategy to all parties in words they can connect with. Enabling partners and team members to internalize the plan fosters better decisions and motivations. For example, if investors don’t understand and connect with it, they might devalue your business, or if partners don’t understand it, they might prefer not to work with you.
Culture is part of the foundation of a business. It drives it. The culture either leads it to success or failure. If the published culture differs from reality, that’s a problem; everybody knows that. Consequently, leadership is defining the culture, living it based on individual and collective behavior, and constantly reinforcing it throughout the business. A disconnect between published culture and reality is most evident when deadlines loom, and the company struggles to meet them. The choices made during crises say as much, if not more, about culture than when “things are going well.”
Why does Why matter
A motivated and dedicated collaborative team is necessary for a business to thrive.
By and large, people want to do an excellent job for which they can be proud.
However, to do a good job, the team must understand why and how their actions enable the desired outcome. Every day people make a bazillion decisions; if there is an incomplete understanding of alignment, the opportunity to make the wrong decision can be high. Sub-optimal decisions are neither in the best interest of the company nor the individual.
As a result, effectively translating from strategy to operations to actions is essential.
PEOPLE (because you can’t get there alone)
Do you want / need people in your business? How many do you need to achieve your business goals? Do you need 10 or 100, or 1000 plus? Why do you need them? Does it matter if they are motivated, dedicated, and show up with apositive can–do attitude to get the job done? Do you need them to make daily decisions and choices to enable business success?
If the answers to these questions are yes, more than a few, because I can’t do everything myself, yes, and definitely yes to making the most appropriate decisions possible daily, are you doing your part as a leader to enable all that to happen?
As no one will see these answers but you unless you choose to share, I encourage you to be completely honest with yourself. It’s also not a secret as people are pretty astute and can see what is happening before them, so you might as well be honest with yourself.
A potential roadmap as a place to start:
- Please get to know the people on your team and encourage all of them to get to know the members of their teams. Conversations can be easy: how did you get started; what’s important to you; what do you value; what do you like about being here; what don’t you like about being here? These are just a few questions to signal that you want to understand.
- Be clear about what your personal Accountability/ responsibility looks and doesn’t look like. If this isn’t what is happening today, why? What are you going to do about it?
- If the business is doing something that feels wrong in the pit of your stomach, it is. So stand –up and find another way?
- People generally want to be treated with respect, feel good about what they do, and feel it matters. They want to be valued. Would you experience dignity and value if you were in their shoes in your business today? Would you like to run or stay? What needs to change and why?
- When in meetings or dealing with people one-on-one, is the goal to advance the business or solve the problem? If neither one of these are happening, are you listening to understand and consider different points of view or only listening to respond? Might you have a better outcome if you listen to learn versus just to respond?
How do you deal with failure/mistakes?
Humans make mistakes; only some approaches work the first time, and machines make mistakes. Does the culture need to adjust to deal with this effectively? Or find another way to address it respectfully.
One of the most significant capabilities for all leaders is connecting with people. When you wake up in the morning, do you expect people will do their best that day, or do you think they will act deliberately with intent to harm? Then, as you walk down the hall, assuming you still do that, do you make eye contact, acknowledge people, and say hi or thanks or good day?
Seemingly small things matter. I sent a sub-contract manager many years ago to negotiate with one of our suppliers. At the end of the last telecon on the results, in front of the team, I said thank you, great job, see you when you get back.
Upon his return, he came to my office and said: I have worked for this company for 35 years, and no one ever said thank you, you did great. Anything you need, tell me, and we (the team) will get it done.
People need to feel valued and that they matter. All I did was speak from the heart.
A standard catchphrase in business is “It’s not personal; it’s just business.” In reality, that statement is wrong.
Yes, business is about money, growth, and profits, particularly in a capitalist society.
But it is very personal to every human at every level that interacts with that business.
Is leadership easier than we think? Would we have a better outcome if we admitted it’s about people and treating them respectfully at all levels across a company/ organization? Would we have a better outcome if we faced our own fears/ shortcomings?