What is a leader’s role in a team? The diversity of thought on this topic during a recent session was fascinating, as few had the same perspective, description, and expectation. Eventually, we found common ground on a few topics such as having a clear vision, inclusive decision-making, the ability to remove roadblocks, and appreciation for specific achievements. In addition, the general themes of discussion align with the “granddaddies and dame” of management and leaders: Warren Bennis, Peter Drucker, and Eleanor Roosevelt.
Having a Clear Vision
One thing many people want from their leader is to have a clear and compelling vision. Warren Bennis does an excellent job of providing context in this quote:
“Have a valid vision: first, leaders must appreciate their reality (what they believe is possible) and then consider the big things. Develop the ability to share that vision and inspire others to follow suit. Accept uncertainty and take bold risks.”
Peter Drucker speaks to the personal integrity and fundamental management practices to lead others well that continue to be the foundation of excellent leadership:
“Successful leaders put people and ethics first, rather than focusing entirely on profits and rigid rules and work structures.”
I have seen so many good leaders hold this truth of putting people and ethics first, while finding a way to create a win/win for the company, customers, and shareholders. In my experience, they find a way, but it’s not easy because often they need to create a new path, which requires lots of conversations, iterations, and a bit of selling. Most people don’t know this is happening – it’s just how they roll. They are humble leaders who do their best to do right by all – they never share it on social media and only a few will know the whole story. These leaders may not sleep well during the process, but they do after they come to a good go-forward plan, strategy, or outcome.
Peter also highlights these three key points:
- Decentralization means that managers empower employees by delegating tasks.
- MBO (Management by Objectives) involves superiors and their subordinates working together to set common goals, identify employees’ areas of expertise and define measurable expected results.
- The SMART method means that those goals need to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-specific, and recorded.
Ability to Remove Roadblocks
Finally, this all works well when you commit to having clear conversations with checkpoints to create positive forward momentum. This means to be prepared for tension and confusion because things will go awry, mistakes will happen, and the conversation is the path forward that moves ideas from concept to success.
Eleanor Roosevelt provides this insight as leaders step into the tension:
“There is no human being from whom we cannot learn something if we are interested enough to dig deep.”
Here are a few practices that effective leaders use to move through tense situations:
- Step into the tension with a mindset of curiosity.
- Assume positive intent.
- Ignore the tone and energy, and get to the heart of the message.
- Identify the action or need they want from you or the situation.
- Share the picture you see.
- Find where you are in agreement, and where you need to find an agreement.
- Explore options using a good decision process that supports an open-minded discussion.
- Come to a good agreement and define checkpoints to adjust, enhance or celebrate.
So many great principles of leadership have been defined which work throughout time and continue to create positive synergy, leadership, collaboration, and communication. We have been handed great guidance by others so we can be our personal best.
When it comes to appreciating specific achievements, remember that your people are people, and part of the secret to business success.
Let me know your insights on applying these tried-and-true practices in a fresh and new way!