Today’s business world is replete with professional jargon and over-used buzzwords that, in truth, don’t necessarily reflect the reality of what most companies actually experience. For example, we frequently encounter executives and top managers who boast of the high level of accountability in their organizations only to admit that the same problems continue to occur without remedy. Additionally, the term teamwork is commonly used by organizations who can’t figure out why their employees seem unwilling or unable to work towards common objectives. However, in our experience, the term leader may be the single most misapplied (and undeserved) label out there.
To appreciate this view better we probably need to review a few basic truths about leadership in general. Review these simple concepts and ask yourself if you are applying them to your day-to-day leadership efforts.
One big mistake (no, huge mistake!) that people “at the top” commonly make is assuming that their people will work to achieve critical objectives merely because the leader has asked/demanded that they do so. Unless that leader has effectively communicated the objective, its criticality and how that objective correlates with the employee’s role (and success) the probability of achievement is considerably diminished.
It is a common assumption that leaders must remain “out front” of those they lead, being constantly visible and encouraging others to follow them over the next hill. The fact is, however, that successful leaders must also learn the value of letting their people determine their own course of action, and support and encourage them from “behind”. Our employees will often develop faster and grow in their own job when given the chance to think for themselves and make their own decisions.
This may be the most important leadership truth of them all. It is both erroneous and dangerous for the leader to assume that the style of directing others that has brought them “to the top” is not only the reason for their success, but that it is the style that will continue to win the day as time goes by. Truly successful leaders have embraced the value of getting to know their people as individuals and building relationships in order to determine the changes they must make in their leadership approach that will be most effective. By recognizing that one’s people are different from each other the leader can adapt his/her style to those they lead and improve their probability of success.
In the final analysis… effective leadership will continue to be a quest for many of us…a journey of sorts. But if we understand that to truly be a “leader” requires continual self-reflection, a willingness to be honest with ourselves regarding the results of our efforts and the courage to admit that we might need to do something that’s very different than what we’ve done before, we have the potential for greater success and a more accountable team. And isn’t it that what we’re really trying to achieve in the first place?