This is going to be the first of a series of articles related to how leaders can explore potential absolutes around their role and anchor their leadership for the purpose of creating engagement, providing purpose and driving performance. I am compelled to explore these issues as a result of the feedback I have received from many in leadership centered around their struggle to create meaning for their teams. Many see this as due to the fact that we live in a pluralistic society that enshrines individual perspective and perception as paramount. While most have no issue with this concept they struggle with how to provide tangible, productive leadership from within that setting.
It hearkens to the old saying that often leadership is like trying to herd cats. In our current setting in North America and Europe our pluralism often leads to relativism and it is this relativism that is at the root of the angst I find among leaders today. One may subscribe to these principles on a personal level but as a leader you are immediately confronted by myriad of voices each attesting to their own reality or validity. Many leaders share that they see themselves walking the proverbial "plank" on a pirate ship where one false step or failure to be inclusive puts you in the drink. It is worth noting that most leaders care about giving an ear to all these voices but good intentions don't necessarily address the reality that trying to create a mechanism for other perspectives rarely translates into a unified business approach. And we are back to the cats - lol!
Any engineer will tell you that there are absolutes that cannot be violated. So in the realm of leadership, business and wealth creation are there some absolutes that can be applied? Over the next few blogs I am going to suggest a few absolutes and lets see where the conversation takes us.
First and foremost effective leadership involves vision. You either become a leader because of a vision or you bring vision to leadership you have been tagged to perform. Steve Jobs or Bill Gates would be an example of the first as their respective visions for computing thrust them into leadership. Sue would be an example of the second.
Never heard of Sue? That's because Sue, like most of us, moved into leadership and needed to bring a vision for that role. She wanted to do a great job and she wanted to have a high performing team. Soon into the role however she noticed that this new crew did or didn't do certain things the way that she felt comfortable with. They were a good group but Sue unknowingly had an approach that was different from the team. They were doing okay but because of these issues she was not enjoying her new role.
She approached me one day on the horns of this dilemma. She reasoned that because she had a good team and because she was uncomfortable with their approach to things that she must be lacking as a leader. As she shared these fears with me her pain and struggle with this was very evident. "I am having a hard time controlling my temper and I am starting to belittle some of the guys" she confided. The reason was her growing frustration with some of these things that she did not agree with.
After letting her share her thoughts I asked her why she just didn't sit the team down at the start of the shift and let them know how she wanted things done? "I can do that?" she said. "Of course you can" I responded. The relief was palpable. I told her that just because she inherited this team did not mean that she could not bring her own vision and leadership to the group. Her group would be a reflection of her leadership not the previous leader.
When I met her a couple of days later she was all smiles and life was good. She had learned that first absolute; you are the leader - bring your vision and pursue it. For those of us who have been there nothing is more disheartening than failing while in the pursuit pleasing everyone else and not staying true to our vision. The problem is how many get promoted who have not been mentored with regard to developing their own vision for leadership? Come to think of it; what is your vision for leadership?