Leadership follows a road with many twists and turns, but how do you inspire your people to go with you on that journey?
Transformative leadership begins with creating a clear direction for your organization. This requires an overall vision that is focused, feasible and makes sound business sense, allied to a strategy that explains clearly how operational plans fit with the bigger picture, and the role your people will play in executing that strategy. Strategies also need to be tested against reality. Has this been tried in the market before? Do we have the right people to succeed? And are we in the right environment to truly make it work?
Equally, leaders must recognize that leadership does not follow a linear path. They must always be ready to adapt and evolve their strategies as the reality upon which they are based evolves. The past 18 months have been testament to the fact that persistent disruptive forces are only likely to increase in magnitude and frequency in the future.
So far, so rational. But what if your people can’t, or won’t, follow the direction you’ve created? Fundamental to our firm’s four-step leadership cascading model is an understanding of the need to blend the rational with the emotional. Creating a direction requires a leader to rationally analyze what’s in front of them, but selling that direction to the people who can make it happen is about emotion.
Believability and desirability (of which more in our next article) are also critical in helping employees fully understand the context of what’s being asked of them. Do your people believe in your vision and your strategy and do they want to be a part of it? And do they believe in your leadership?
A great leader is often a great salesperson, but the only way to sell your leadership is to be constantly aware of what your people need from you. So, the next time you find yourself questioning the wisdom of the hyper-talented 20-somethings who’ve chosen to leave for another company, ask yourself instead ‘what does this say about my leadership?’
The needs of today’s workforce are changing. It’s no longer just about providing the right financial package, it’s also about demonstrating leadership and taking concrete actions to further the issues that matter most to your employees, from climate change to racial injustice.
What leaders need most today is to move from a push to a pull strategy, so that people are drawn to work for a company by the example it sets through its leadership and through its actions. That will require a paradigm shift like no other we’ve seen before in business, but starting with defining a clear direction rooted in reality will set a firm foundation for building engagement and the drive for results that follows.