Lived Out Core Values – We are familiar that no two fingerprints are alike and that each snowflake has a distinctive signature. Well, add the zebra’s designer made, stripe pattern to the unique list. No mass-produced, off the rack for these guys. A lion on a hunting expedition may consider that unimportant but among zebras, uniqueness may determine who gets first position at the watering hole, or preferred access to prime grazing land.
In the same way, an organization has its own core values. Frequently these are undefined or ignored. As a result many organizations, fail to live out their distinctiveness.
Core values aren’t the product of a two-day retreat that ends once suitcases are packed. Successful leaders not only identify their core values, they allow them to define and determine practice. Decisions are vetted through this filter. Hiring and personnel placement align accordingly. In other words, core values are given active, foreground presence. These aren’t rules given as dictums to ‘lessers’, rather they are lived out principles for all.
Successful leaders live out these principles and set the tone for others to follow. (see www.robinrig.com Core Values)
Communication with Limited Stratification – Effective leadership finds frequent ways to be actively engaged in front of their employees. This is easier said than done because the tendency is to let daily responsibilities cocoon senior management behind closed doors, accessible only to the select.
Make no mistake, the time will come when leaders will need a different level of loyalty from those they lead. The occasional or staged visit with workers may gain an audience but it will never gain the employees’ ‘hearts’. Successful leaders are those who give high priority to communicate with their employees. This lessens the divide and promotes a sense of shared purpose in achieving the company’s vision. Understandably there are limitations to leadership access but the farther removed employees feel from channels of meaningful communication, the less they will be committed to the organization. Energies will be directed elsewhere.
Regardless of the method, employers need to do what is necessary to remove needless communication blockages. Some accomplish this by scheduled datebook appointments to protect against incursion of other priorities in order to get them in front of their employees. Curiosity is characteristic of effective and empowering communication.
When organizations are functioning well, communication flows, unimpeded by unnecessary barriers, judgment, and hierarchical stratification.
The Language of We – Scripture indicates, “What you say flows from what is in your heart” Luke 6:35. This states that our language is an insight into our values and our priorities that shape our worldview. Language also creates and molds our individual and collective reality. Although much more complex than the following adage, important truth is captured, “Change your talk, change your world.”
In the workplace when I is dominant, functioning is territorial; individual rights are elevated at the expense of the collective. Roles are separate and distinct with little regard for what is held in common.
Leadership that actualizes the factors we have been considering will be much more likely to hear conversations characterized by ‘we’ rather than ‘I’, my’, and ‘mine’. Efforts are seen as collaborative rather than boundaried. Organizational walls are soft. Departments understand and co-operate with each other.
The ‘we’ mindset, often conceptualized as team, is sometimes misunderstood. Some rightly suggest that their work is individualistic so gathering for a team hug is unrealistic (and undesired). In truth, (with apologies to those who are not sports’ enthusiasts), the metaphor of a football team works well. The defensive linemen have very different roles than the linebackers but collectively they serve each other. In the same manner, the offensive team has numerous ‘teams’ within a team. The receivers need to know how they function with one another as well as with the quarterback. Generally, they do not need to know specific blocking assignments of the offensive linemen. The same might not be said of the running backs. Extending the metaphor, there are the individualistic roles of the punter and the paired relationship of the placekicker and holder. All of these roles are complementary serving a greater purpose than could be accomplished by any individual.
Leadership Development and Succession – Success that resides solely in the personality of a gifted, charismatic leader may be inspiring but success that disappears with this leader’s departure should cause us to question what successful leadership is.
One of the prime goals of an effective leader should be to develop other leaders. This requires gathering leaders who have greater skill in some areas as well as identifying and mentoring the next generation of leaders. This is far more than having them ‘watch and learn’ rather it is giving leadership away. This is manifested in a genuine desire to invest in employees as opposed to seeing them as instruments to achieve company’s goals. Obviously this approach of growing leaders goes beyond providing employees with excellent professional development and opportunities to climb the corporate ladder. As important as these things may be, they are merely components of a much greater need.
Willing Both to Change and Pursue Change – Standing still is death. As discussed in Navigating the Perilous Waters of Change www.robinrig.com, despite its difficulties, change is inevitable. Though it can be approached in Amish-like retreat, an organization’s survival is dependent on increasing strategic connection. Erecting protective bubble zones from real or perceived enemies may offer temporary escape but this withdrawal usually leaves organizations ill prepared for the future.
Some change is unexpected. In those cases, you need to have assurance that the trust capital earned over time and the resources developed during more stable days will be sufficient to see leaders through.
Responding to imposed change is one thing, actively pursuing change is another. In the latter case, good is indeed the enemy of the great. Resting on your laurels may be nice when leaves are fresh but before too long, those leaves become brittle and uncomfortable. Active growth characterizes leadership that is oriented to the future.
Undoubtedly, more success indicators could be chosen but ignore these and the best-before-date will soon leave leaders and the organizations they lead on the shelf.
by Rob Inrig
Copyright © 2012 www.RobInrig.com. All Rights Reserved.
I welcome your feedback as well as your ‘leadership stories’, their impact, and the lessons you took from these. Submissions are made with the understanding that they may be freely and without obligation be used in any future publications by Rob Inrig.