We have spent an entire generation mentoring and teaching management techniques to aspiring leaders when we should have been teaching them leadership skills. Leadership is a skill that is underdeveloped, probably because it is unique and creative in nature. It’s the road less travelled. Leaders like Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, David Geffen and Mark Zuckerberg all chose to make the leap out of the education stream and take their place in infamy by letting their creative side direct their actions.
While managers are trained to manage (Read: follow the processes), leaders foster new ideas and innovations, some are outside the box. So what is the secret sauce to leadership? We believe communication is the key element. According to Kotter, (Leading Change, 1996) there are seven key actions necessary to communicating the strategic vision.
1. Simplicity: Keep the message clear, stay away from industry hi-tech jargon,
2. Metaphor, analogy, and example: Keep talking about the vision, make it easy to understand,
3. Multiple forums: Because not everyone is invited to every meeting keep reinforcing the vision as part of the agenda and tie the meetings’ purpose to the vision. Formal and informal communications streams are key to promoting the vision,
4. Repetition: Reinforce the idea as often as possible. This exhibits the commitment to the team,
5. Lead by example: The management team is in charge of delivery. If the executive team is not united the staff will smell fear and begin to look for the loose thread, especially the staff that are opposed to the change,
6. Explained inconsistencies: When rumours of discontent are floating around the water cooler, they need to be addressed. When the rumours of discontent are allowed to fester it undermines the foundation of the vision,
7. Give and Take: Communication must be reciprocal in nature. Stop preaching and begin listening to the staff. Understand their concerns and address each one. Again, if left untreated things can turn out poorly for the vision and the overall change.
Strong leaders are convincing because they are true to their vision. It’s easy to communicate the strategy because they “live” the strategy. The challenge for leaders is to manage the “noise”. Stay close to the staff and listen intently to their concerns, address those concerns and reiterate the vision.
Leadership is a risky business and requires courage and planning to manage the risk and lead the people to optimize success. Great leaders complete the due diligence required to manage the risks that challenge the vision. Preparation and ongoing assessment is key. Continuous reinforcement and clear communication both establish and provide support to obtain the level of commitment from teams required to execute the plan.
Have you got what it takes to be an exceptional leader? Let us help you find out. Contact Heather Cartwright or Scott Savage at www.logixsource.com.