Many ponder the concept of leadership – what it takes; what it means – yet people quickly register great leadership. They can also tell when it is missing.
Great leaders have great expectations and believe in great things. In their presence, people walk taller and accomplish more. A “high expectation” environment develops around a great leader. As Theodore Hesburgh said, “You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.”
Leadership connects the dots between people’s contribution and organisation success. It connects organisation success with impact on key stakeholders. When people connect aspiration for excellence, financial growth and more opportunity, the latter is more likely to happen. When leaders make this non-negotiable, it will happen.
Great leaders shape the semantic environment. This includes the words to use and those to avoid. It includes what you pay attention to and what you ignore.
Many use this story to contrast management and leadership:
There was a man walking along a famous road in Paris. He came across two builders working. He asked what they were building. The first said: “A wall”. The second looked away into the empty space beyond. He responded with wonder and awe, “I’m building a cathedral to the glory of Notre Dame.”
In the absence of leadership, people narrow their focus and fixate on activities and things rather than impact and perception. In the absence of leadership, people re-define employment as showing up, getting paid and going home.
Changing location from home to work doesn’t create success. Great leaders evoke a full mind, heart and spirit response – complete commitment to the cause. Both intellect and passion channeled in the common direction are essential for success given the cut and thrust of competition.
Great leaders do the following without a great deal of fanfare:
- Expect great things (as people live up to or down to expectations)
- Treat people as brilliant — whether they show their brilliance is situational and discretionary
- Keep them plugged in to the big picture — the why (Without this, a large part of the brain disengages.)
- Educate them — in touch with business reality not sheltered employment
- Keep them informed of what’s happening so they are responsible in an environment of trust and inspiration
- Treat people as adults — most have parents and don’t need more
- Encourage accountability in a horizontal (not vertical) direction — peers miss nothing
- Regularly hook them into the big picture as day-to-day demands can narrow focus and hide broader impact
- Systematically drip-feed messages of significance and purpose.
Thinking and acting along these lines creates leadership throughout the organisation for the ultimate outcome of creating a leading organisation.
You really do get the organisation you deserve.