Leader’s Most Important Work
There are probably as many ideas about a leader’s most important work as there are people. However, there is no denying how a leader’s behavior influences and even dictates the performance of an organization and the results manifested.
I submit, a leader’s most important work is leadership behavior.
This falls into two broad categories: driving results and building relationships. These categories may be broad but the behaviors that make leaders effective in these categories are not. Here are the fundamental behaviors–leader’s most important work, that successful leaders employ.
Results stem from action. Leaders either execute the goal or they don’t. There is no “gray area” here. To move beyond talking about results to successful attainment requires an unwavering focus on execution and accountability. Successful leaders drive results through execution; actually doing what they say they will do, from returning a phone call to executing an acquisition as stated. What are the things that slow or impede execution?
A lack of clarity around goals is a major reason for the absence of execution. Managers and work teams readily accept organizational goals—increase sales 20%, reduce costs by 10%, but often they lack connection of what, why and the concept of how to execute. What has to be done differently to achieve the goal? Leaders can improve clarity by writing down deadline-driven, measurable goals that are vitally important and drive towards that.
Top leadership must create “a lattice of understanding” throughout the organization. That means ensuring managers and supervisors are conveying the goal, defining what needs to be done differently and providing support for milestones.
Execution begins in the “C” suite and through deliberate leadership behavior diffuses throughout the organization to where everyone has a line-of-sight from the work performed to the organizational priority. Successful leaders hold everyone accountable. People tend to drift off course. They put out fires that pull them away from the goal. Eventually they lose sight of the goal. Successful leaders have put things in place to ensure course corrections. One way to do this is to shift the “status meeting” to a weekly or daily accountability meeting.
- Begin the meeting with status reporting. Everyone reports successes, struggles, failures and barriers to goal attainment.
- The team then collectively focuses on solution finding for the issues that most hinder the goal and create alternatives that surmount barriers.
- Lastly individuals share “the best thing they learned.” They discuss what they intend to do to refocus and recommit to the goal and, the success they intend to bring to the next meeting.
Accountability can be built in as a comfortable and expected part of the process rather than an anxiety-ridden demand.
Leaders must use their leadership behavior to build relationships. This is one area that cannot be delegated. With the ultimate goal of “people power,” successful leaders unleash talent, capability and latent leadership by communicating powerfully and empowering others. Leaders must grasp the fact that their behavior communicates on multiple levels. The millions of seemingly insignificant daily interactions between leaders and managers, employees, partners and stakeholders are in fact, wildly significant.
Here are three ways successful leaders demonstrate powerful communication.
- Listen with the intent to listen don’t think about responding. Think about how meaningfully you are listening.
- Successful leaders model the behavior that demonstrates how team members should interact with clients. Example isn’t just important it’s paramount.
- Be relentless with internal communication—your brand, what your promise means.
Empowerment. Leaders who encourage the condition that empowers the talent, energy and contribution of others cultivate the succession of leadership. They create a leadership culture. Empowerment happens when leaders give autonomy under the cushion of their direction and support.
Once again I suggest a framework approach. Senior leaders empower managers, managers empower supervisors and supervisors empower the front line all the while providing direction and offering support.
This is a leader’s most important work, driving results and building relationships not by teaching but by helping people to learn.
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