Maintain an Advantage to Succeed

Tomorrow’s business environment will be characterized by more complex problems, even faster rates of change, increased global competition, and the commoditization of most products. It will become more and more difficult for organizations to develop and maintain a unique advantage over competitors. What worked in the industrial age, or communications age, will no longer be sufficient.

The motivational leader of the future will have to develop in these areas:

Leadership is a relationship. Leadership is about people. You don’t lead things, you lead people. You lead people through the relationship you have with them. Only when you are able to build positive, trusting relationships with team members will you be able to effectively lead them. You can only develop trusting relationships by spending time with people, interacting, dialoguing, and sharing experiences. When you have relationships based on trust and experience, you know you can depend on each other no matter what the future holds.

Lead through goals and values. As organizations move from commanding and controlling employees to empowering them, it becomes even more important to have clear goals and values that are understood by everyone. It is no longer feasible to count on the leader for all the answers. We must trust team members to act on their own, to make their own day-to-day decisions. It is now impractical to try to manage and control everything people do. How, then, do you guide and influence the behavior of team members? The answer is to have crystal clear goals and values that are shared throughout the organization. If everyone is pursuing the same goals and acting consistent with the same values, it is not necessary to control what they do. When team members know the goals and are committed to the organization’s values, they will almost always act in ways supportive to the organization. The key will be the leader’s ability to crystallize the organization’s goals and values and effectively communicate them to team members.

Balance your work. It is possible for a leader to do too much – or not enough. The failure to delegate traps executives under the pressure of too much paperwork, too many details to handle, and too little time for creative planning and leading. Attitude is the key to avoiding this trap. Believe in people, train and develop them continuously, and give them the opportunity to accept responsibility for significant achievement. Just as devastating as the failure to delegate is overdoing delegation. Giving too much of your own authority and responsibility to others who are not adequately trained, who do not share your goals, or who are overworked means that you will soon be out of touch with the operation and will lose the insight you need to influence the direction the organization is moving. Avoid this trap by maintaining a plan that details what you plan to delegate and to whom, with a schedule for implementing your plan.

Focus on strengths. It is easy to drift along allowing people to do the same work they have always done and assuming that is all they can do. People are the greatest under-utilized asset in business today. Study people; learn their strengths, their personal goals, and their desires. Then give them opportunities to develop new abilities and learn new skills that will make them more valuable as team members and more fulfilled as individuals. Everyone has both strengths and weaknesses. It is the leader’s responsibility to put team members in the right role to best utilize their unique talents and abilities.

Multiply your leadership. If you want to move up in the organization, the quickest way to make that possible is to develop someone else to do your job. Then you are available for new assignments and increased responsibilities. If you are already at the top, developing someone to take over is even more important. If no one is ready to succeed you, the organization may well die when you are no longer there to lead it. That would be a tragedy for those who have invested a large part of their lives in it. The ultimate measurement of a leader’s success is how many other leaders they have developed. Organizations succeed in direct proportion to the number of leaders they have. With only one or a few top leaders, organizations must resort to a hierarchical bureaucratic structure to manage and control the actions of employees. This structure is destined to fail in a fast paced, ever-changing business world. The ideal goal is to develop everyone into a leader.

Leadership Management® Institute
Reprinted with permission
Strategic Essentials is a Managing Partner for Leadership Management® International, Inc.

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