(This post is from Martin Wilson, one of our top team of consultants here at Sheridan Resolutions)
Leadership matters. Our world is more complex than ever before, with access to more information than ever before. It’s a complexity and abundance of information that can paralyse and confuse. Organisations need leaders who are agile thinkers, who can rise above the details, synthesise and create clarity and purpose for others.
We also live and work in a far more interconnected world. A silo mentality leads to inefficiency and missed opportunities.
Organisations need leaders who are socially skilled, who can communicate and network effectively, and who can connect and build productive relationships across boundaries. In addition, whilst employee and customer expectations have risen, organisations need to deliver more with less. That requires leaders who can inspire and engage others.
Finally, we live and work in a world of greater ambiguity and pace. Anyone hoping for a period of stability will be disappointed. Organisations need leaders tolerant of ambiguity, open to new ways of doing things and with the self confidence, persistence and commitment to keep things moving in the right direction.
Given how much it matters, it’s not surprising that leadership has been conceptualised, studied and theorised so extensively. Surprising; no. Confusing; yes. Ask Google ‘what is leadership?’ and you’ll get about 613 million results in 0.49 seconds. Try Amazon for books on leadership and you’ll have over 50,000 to choose from. If you want to over-complicate leadership and you’re OK not getting out much, give Google and Amazon a go.
If, on the other hand, you want to quickly get on with inspiring high level engagement, it’s possible by focusing on these 3 leadership priorities:
1. Clarity – providing people with a shared sense of purpose and meaning
2. Connection – inspiring, exciting and aligning people
3. Commitment – creating the conditions for people to do more than they thought they could.
Martin Luther King did not say ‘I have a strategic plan’! People are not lead by plans and analysis. Effective leaders provide people with a shared sense of purpose and meaning. They answer the question ‘what am I doing here?’ by creating a compelling picture of the future and a clear focus on the right things.
In charting new courses, they understand that the more precisely you can define what you want, the more likely you are to communicate it effectively and ultimately achieve it. In this way, effective leaders are able to make the complex simple and the challenging seem attainable.
Effective leaders understand where they’re going and how to get there, and their teams share this understanding. But more than engaging the ‘head’, effective leaders also encourage the ‘heart’. They act as a magnet as well as a compass. They attract alignment to shared values and goals by communicating with an infectious passion.
They know that people have to be won over emotionally as well as rationally and so they get out and proactively attract and align people to a cause. Showing people they matter is an essential element of leadership and effective leaders make each person feel special and confident. One of the secrets of effective leaders is their understanding of the very real connection between how people feel and how they perform. They pay attention to others, involving, listening and building the emotional engagement that inspires discretionary effort.
Having engaged hearts and minds, effective leaders make things happen; they engage people’s feet as well! With a strong bias for action, effective leaders move others, modeling the personal commitment needed to bridge the gap between dream and delivery.
With a heartfelt commitment to the things that matter, they maintain confidence and momentum, keeping themselves and others going in the face of apparent paradox and ambiguity. They take accountability for creating the conditions for people to do great work rather than seeing themselves as victims of others’ indifference. With everyone in the team feeling they have a part to play, that they are valued and that each of their jobs is important, the leader can mobilise the team to do more than they ever thought they could.