Saturday, January 26, 2008

What Happens If Nothing Changes In The Way We Lead?

Perhaps like me you go through a similar routine at the start of a new year. We start by admonishing ourselves for the mistakes of the past year - projects left undone, opportunites not seized. We grit our teeth and resolve to make changes in the way we do things in the coming year, only to find ourselves making the same resolutions: I've got to get organised, I'll set priorities this year, I promise to delegate more etc.

While they are worthy goals - the truth is we will more likely than not find ourselves at the same spot next year. But what would happen if we were to make a determined and real change in the way we lead our organisations? Better still - what will happen in our organisations this year if nothing changes in the way we lead?

Here are seven leadership resolutions you might consider that will make a real difference in your organisation in the coming year. Which ones will provide the biggest payoffs? Do all seven, and chances are you will have the most rewarding year of your leadership career!

1. Craft a big, bold, breath-taking story and tell it every day.
What is the most exciting, rewarding, and scariest future you can imagine? What great battles will be won, treasures found and people freed? Paint the story in full colour. What does the future look like? How are we going to get there? How is tomorrow going to be much better than today? People want to be part of an important story. Tell it to them and help them find their own starring role.

2. Multiply the strength of your leadership connections.
Consider for a moment the 8-10 individuals with whom you share management and leadership responsibilities. What would change if your relationships with those on the leadership team remained as is?
How much more effective would your leadership team become if you dramatically strengthened your personal connection with every one of these people? You have probably created a mutually acceptable status quo with these individuals so change will not be easy. Are there some difficult conversations that you need to have? Try this: honour their uniqueness; share more of yourself; learn about them; ask how you can serve them. Be careful, this is very potent.

3. Act with exceptional compassion and kindness.
You are not the only one feeling a bit beaten up these days. The members of your organisation are faced with many of the same challenges that you face…imperfect products and processes, unpredictable environments, insatiable customers, disappointing staff performance. Seek out ways to show your humanity every day. Treat everyone in the organisation with dignity and respect, especially those who are struggling. They will walk through walls for you, but do not do it for that reason. Do it because it is the right thing to do. We spend much of our waking lives inside organisations and you have the power to make these places where the human spirit can thrive or die. Use this power well.

4. Tell the absolute truth.
Stop spinning, sugar-coating and avoiding. You’ll be amazed at how many people start listening to you. How much more effective would your organisation be if the half-truths, positioning and face-saving were eradicated? The tough part is that you cannot make this happen by mandating it. You must go first. You must model it.

5. Hold everyone accountable.
Accountability is not tyranny. It is a very good thing. A caring leader insists that people do what they say they will do. When you hold people accountable, you are saying that their work is important. You are saying that they are important. Every time you let a deadline slip or a deliverable go incomplete, you are discounting the person whose job it is to deliver on these commitments. Make it a habit to ensure that every piece of work is accompanied by a personal commitment. Measure. Give feedback. Initiate consequences. Celebrate being part of an organisation that keeps its promises.

6. Confront underperformance.
You know in your heart-of-hearts who in your organisation is under-performing. Commit to seeing that this performance changes early this year. Now here’s the caveat. Before you take any action, ask yourself these questions – “What is my part in this situation? How have my actions or lack thereof contributed to this situation? What do I need to do differently?” Approach the individuals in question and describe your responsibilities and personal commitments to change. Then, and only then, it’s their turn.

7. Be distinctively you.
What would you get if you could put all of the leadership qualities of Bill Gates, Gandhi, Mother Theresa, George Washington, Jack Welch and Winston Churchill into one individual? Probably a bland, non-descript person indistinguishable in the crowd. These men and women made a difference because they had the courage to be themselves. Have you forgotten who you really are? What excites you these days? What are your passions? Where do you want to make your mark? When you are at your best, what are you doing? Maybe it’s time to figure out what is most important to you, tell everyone around you, and let this fuel your leadership.

Why not make this your best year ever as a leader. What will happen if nothing really changes?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow! This is perfect for my personal philosophy of leadership paper at the Alliance Graduate School (AGS). I just recently discover and agreed with US Pres. D. Eisenhower that we are all leaders. Thus I have to be responsible with what I say and do. God bless the Christians as they lead!