By Dr. John A. Passante
To those of us who toil each day in the role of a leader, we know that the journey is indeed full of detours, bumps in the road, high and low bridges as well as storms and headwinds! Preferably, there is a sense of accomplishment, pride and professional joy!
Leadership requires being the compass of the organization. Harvard’s Richard Hackman and Dartmouth College’s Ruth Wageman have found that successful leaders create:
· DIRECTION a clear and compelling direction for the organization;
· STRUCTURE a focused team with established procedures and norms of conduct;
· PEOPLE technically competent and emotionally intelligent members;
· SUPPORT members are trained and their efforts are adequately rewarded;
· DEVELOPMENT team performance is reviewed and members learn from their successes and failures.
The journey is influenced by the values, vision and principles of the leader.
“What a man thinks about himself,” Thoreau wrote, “that is what determines his fate.”
“The miracle, or the power, that elevates the few is to be found in their industry, application and perseverance under the prompting of a brave, determined spirit.” Mark Twain.
Leaders engender spirit and hope. When the organization’s journey encounters storms (poor earnings, back orders, quality issues or competition), the leader is the steady hand on the throttle and infuses driving passion into the enterprise.
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill.
Leadership demands the following toll:
· A leader must be authentic (the real deal).
· It is paramount that a leader be genuine on the outside and on the inside. Authenticity and transparency are magnets that draw employees closer to the leader. In fact, it encourages others to emulate the leader. The journey of leadership is paved with competence, inspiration, humility, serving others, bliss, pain, stress, honor and the ability to give more than others expect of you and a sense of world mindedness.
· A leader is a connector, that is, they connect the positive energy in the organization and unplug the negative energy in order to smooth the journey. Leaders share their roadmap (vision), rituals and guideposts (principles and integrity).
· Conviction and energy deep within themselves are the source of leadership. They possess stamina, tenacity, courage, heart and enthusiasm.
Leadership involves helping others in the journey of self-growth at both the emotional and cognitive levels and unlocking that talent and creativity.
The journey demands vision the ability to look ahead and visualize the organization winning. Without vision, the organization will perish. The vision indeed creates the excitement and emotion of the trip. Success occurs when all employees take responsibility for the journey.
Leadership is all about emotional responses in the future. According to the Hay Group, leaders will have to be "adept, conceptual and strategic thinkers." The road will be filled with demands for financial success, social responsibility and environmental custodianship.
John W. Gardner puts it well: “All too often, on the long road up, young leaders become ‘servants of what is rather than shapers of what might be.’ In the long process of learning how the system works, they are rewarded for playing within the intricate structure of existing rules. By the time they reach the top, they are very likely to be trained prisoners of the structure. This is not all bad; every vital system reaffirms itself. But no system can stay vital for long unless some of its leaders remain sufficiently independent to help it to change and grow.”
The potholes in the leader’s journey are the impact of the “Me Generation” who tend to be more loyal to social media than their employer. The red lights will be bright and indicate flexible work rules, foster good work relationships and self-directed work terms.
The engine (heart) of the leadership journey is self-identify. The influence (drive line) is adhering to a set of ethical values, which guide behavior and fire the commitment to achieve.
The impactive leader not only knows where it is going and how to get there, but they are keenly aware that leadership operates in a dynamic environment and must remain fluid. Flexibility and revision ensure that the leader and the organization remain on course and en route to success.
“When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.” Seneca the Younger.