Leadership has and always will be a popular topic of Thought Leadership. Throughout history, we can point to good and bad demonstrations of leadership in all aspects of our civilisation and social development, never more so than in recent times. Whilst it means different things to different people there is I believe a common thread that defines leadership in our personal and professional existence.
But before we delve further, I will share just a handful of the most popular and referenced quotes on Leadership from a variety of well-known individuals and so-called leaders over the generations
“A leader is a dealer in hope” — Napoleon Bonaparte
“Where there is no vision, the people perish” — Proverbs 29:18
“You manage things; you lead people” —Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper
“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others” — Jack Welch
“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves” —Lao Tzu
“You don’t need a title to be a leader” – Multiple sources and my personal favourite!
These are all sound definitions, but no one quote or phrase can capture the essence of what Leadership is or should be. But there are certain words that need to form part of the equation of Leadership, and they are “results” and “people” (in no particular order). The other is “style” which is much more unique in nature to the leader in question.
As with any good artist, a leader must learn and develop a variety of tools, techniques, and strategies that allow one to practice their craft – not only skilfully but with agility and creativity.
And while there are plenty of helpful leadership models, methodologies, and frameworks, they simply provide a road map to guide and support a particular leader. The style evolves, adapts, and matures over time with experience.
Wherever you sit within your organisation be it team lead, manager, VP, MD – one of your core responsibilities is to realise the mission, vision, strategies, goals, and values of the organisation. So, you drive results, remembering of course that productivity and people weave results.
The foundation for achieving results is about setting clear expectations as Gallup share in this insightful article, setting expectations is the most fundamental responsibility of a leader (which also touches on some critical elements for management at all levels). . Once a team knows what success looks like and the results required to deliver the focus then shifts to managing those expectations. How? By monitoring performance, giving feedback, providing resources, and removing obstacles.
Leadership by its very definition requires a relationship with others. No followers, no leadership. A focus exclusively on results whilst ignoring the people is counterproductive and obvious to most, but not all. As a leader helping your people succeed is key. It can be a happy or unhappy wheel depending on how well you help your people succeed, how invested they feel and their level of ownership in the vision.
“Take Care of Your Employees and They’ll Take Care of Your Business,” says Richard Branson, Founder of The Virgin Group.
So, develop your people. Coach and mentor them. Take the time to recognise the good work they do, and the contributions they make. Seek out their ideas. Involve them in problem-solving and decision-making, and make them part of the solution.
The potential problem for leaders is that they automatically tend to lead from their comfort zone.
A task-focused leader will usually be more focused on expectations and goals, holding people accountable for outcomes, ensuring, and driving results. Whereas a relationship-focused leader will tend to be more focused on interacting with people, listening to their perspectives, enhancing their experience, and maintaining healthy relationships.
Both areas of focus are important to leadership, but our comfort with either the task side or the relationship side means leadership often becomes unbalanced by one or the other. As a leader, you need to be mindful of your most comfortable, automatic tendencies toward either results or people or you might find the vision hard to realise.
Leaders must think about their natural tendency toward tasks and relationships. If unsure, seek the advice of your team or others who work and interact with you. On the side that is not your natural preference, make a list of two or three behaviours you can begin practicing and focusing on to re-balance your leadership.
In your leadership, the people-results element plays out continuously and in a wide variety of ways. A team member, for example, may have personal issues that are getting in the way of results, yet the organization still needs the results. As a leader, your role is to help resolve the tension and re-establish alignment between the team member (people) and the needs of the organization (results).
As another example, the organization may need a new kind of result, and so it embarks upon a change initiative. Change, as we all know, impacts people in myriad, complex ways. People often resist and react negatively (even emotionally) toward change. Again, your job as a leader is to manage the dialectic – to ensure people can effectively navigate the transition so that the change initiative can achieve its desired result.
As a leader, you simply cannot be effective overall by choosing to emphasize either people OR results. Your leadership requires a focus on people AND results. And your style will develop if you strike the balance. Easier said than done I hear you say!