Creating a Shared Vision Influencing Employees through Vision
Most organizations have an established culture, mostly established at the organization’s founding. Each new employee gets inculcation to the organizational culture, and it is the expectation of the leadership that once orientated into the organization culture, the new employees will fit into the organization and work within the confined of the organizational culture.
While this is the norm in many organizations, this robotic form of organization culture does little good to the organization, especially in influencing the employees to believe in the purpose and vision of the company. Perhaps this is what calls for a different approach in sharing organization vision to a new employee. American psychologist Carl Rogers once said, “That which is most personal is most universal, if that were not the case, there would be no shared vision.”
A shared vision is most influential to employees and the leadership, who all work towards the attainment of the vision. The leader of any organization, however, big or small must ensure that employees share the same vision; that they believe in the work, they are doing, and, therefore, work not out of coercion, but from the premise of attaining the same vision.
To create a common vision, leaders must, therefore, allow employees to share their individual visions, and from the individual visions, find a way of uniting them with the organization vision. By so doing, employees understand that they are not working towards the attainment of the organization vision, but their vision, and are therefore motivated to work towards this attainment. In the process, the organization can rightly attain, or sometimes surpass its vision.
Leaders as Role Models
“Leaders as role models” is a commonplace phrase that has almost lost its meaning to the innumerable instances of leaders preaching what they do not practice. Yet even in the murk of leaders preaching water while drinking wine, there are instances where leaders have indeed led as examples. The Enron scandal where employees and clients lost billions having been swindled by the leadership of the company is a typical example of leaders as role models. Having hatched a get-rich-quick scheme, the leadership at Enron ensured that this philosophy passed down to the employees, who were rewarded with better perks for bringing any additional victims into the scheme. The leadership itself was vital in the scandal, perfecting their act by presenting a highly performing outlook of the company, knowing too well it was not. This is similarly, what the employees presented to their clients, following the example set by the leadership. At the discovery of the scandal, the employees were shocked to discover that even their money invested in the company was nothing but “air.”
Being a leader put the pressure to perform, knowing that all eyes are on you. Leaders are always under scrutiny from their followers, who want to follow in the footsteps of the leader. With such pressure, many leaders set out to change the organization. Many are the times when leaders present a roadmap for change, yet several months into the roadmap unveiling, nothing seems to change in the manner of organizational duties and undertakings. Michael Leonard intimates that sometimes, the leader fails the followers. Phrases such as “We’ll change when the CEO changes” become commonplace since even after unveiling the roadmap, the leader remains stuck in the past.
To effect change, the leader must be seen to change first. While this may not be a walk in the park, especially where a routine has been present for a long period, the leader must provide the footsteps for the followers. It is a daunting task, yet the leader’s prerogative to ensure that followers, even the most stubborn, fall in line towards the common purpose by taking the first step.
Attaining Personal Goals
The challenge of leadership involves balancing a host of conflicting interests; stakeholder vs. shareholder interest; profitability vs. loses; expansion vs. consolidation and a host of many other personnel problems. Often, while dealing with these challenges, most leaders focus on the attainment of organizational goals, especially after a streak of losses or scandals, and therefore, the need to salvage a company’s reputation. Most leaders, will, in the same breath, deal with challenges of filling the shoes of a successful leader or continue being profitable in the face of market saturation and increasing competition.
In pursuing and attempting to balance these conflicting interests, most leaders get lost in their work that they forget themselves. Even more is that their personal lives and goals take a backseat as work virtually drains life out of them. Yet attaining organization goal at the expense of personal goals is potentially catastrophic. While some personal goals may be well embedded within organizational goals, some are far outside the realm of the workplace and require personal time and commitment for their attainment. Such goals, apart from providing internal satisfaction, help improve the drive in work, and in essence, cultivate a better attitude towards work and the workplace.
The first step towards attaining these goals is to have some, for one cannot attain what they have no vision. The idea of goals outside work helps in creating variety in life and helps to keep at bay the notion of work as a prison. Such a mindset is especially important for a leader, who above all, must provide inspiration and motivation to the followers. How then can followers find inspiration from a leader who views the very workplace that they work in as a prison?
Attaining Personal Goals Part II
The first step towards staining personal goals is setting the goals. These, like objectives, need to be SMART. This is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. By setting smart goals, the leader ensures that the goals are within means of attainment; not too much and not too little. The goals should, however, be capable of exciting as well as scaring you at the same time. Attaining personal goals additionally act as motivation to the leader, with the feeling that by attaining the personal goals, it is, therefore, possible to attain organization goals as well.
After setting the goal, breaking it up into smaller portions makes it much easier. Each of the parts should be in such small bits that they are attainable. By attaining the small bits of the bigger goal, the leader gets encouragement and the drive to attain the rest of the goal.
Realism is vital to attaining the goals and gaining personal satisfaction. It is thus the reason for the SMART goals. Setting a realistic personal goal be it taking some time off work for holiday, family or personal development is necessary for personal satisfaction. By setting realistic goals, a leader avoids the pitfalls of setting too big a goal whose attainment is impossible.
Commitment to the goal goes a long way in ensuring that the goal moves from paper to an actionable and visible act. Attaining the goal thus requires a personal commitment to the processes that lead to the final jubilation. Commitment in time, finances, and planning, all work towards the final jubilation on attainment of the goals. Such commitment also guarantees the final satisfaction of looking back to where you started and recognizing how far one has come.
Transitioning from One Leader to Another
Months before his death and resignation as Apple’s CEO, Steve Jobs had already chosen his successor. Tim Cook would take over the mantle as the company’s CEO while Jobs would be the company’s president. Cook had been Apple’s chief operating officer before his appointed, with a cumulative 13 years in the company at the time of his elevation as the CEO. The transition from Jobs to Cook was a smooth one, as months before his resignation; Jobs had already earmarked Cook to take over from him. Cook had not only been in the company for long, but he had also worked in the operations of the company close to the CEO and, therefore, had an in-depth knowledge of the company’s operations.
Cook’s elevation to the position of the CEO is commonplace in many organizations. However, other organizations opt to hunt for talent outside the corporation in such circumstance, much to their chagrin later in the operations. During the transition time between the new and old leader, the activities of the organization should run smoothly. In case the new leader is bringing in new changes, these need to be cumulative to allow enough time for the employees to adjust. A complete overhaul of the system with the coming of the new leader can only spell doom for the organization.
Apple’s transition was perhaps one of the smoothest, as having been in the company for long, Cook could easily relate to the employees. Moreover, Cook had insider information on the workings of the company making him the perfect candidate for the leadership position. Internal promotion of leaders, therefore, works much better than sporting for talent outside the company. Moreover, with an internal promotion, employees feel a sense of continuity and motivation, especially when the individual elevated deserves the promotion.
Grooming Future Leaders
In an earlier post, I had intimated on the benefits of internal promotion as a way of transitioning from one leader to another. Among the advantages was the creation of a sense of continuity in the organization, motivation of junior employees, and the sense of familiarity a promoted leader has with the organization. Therefore, although an external recruit may breathe a new lease of life in the organization, it will take a longer for the leader to get acquainted with the workings of the organization even under the stewardship of a veteran. For this reason, organizations need a program specifically designed to identify and groom future leaders who will take over after the exit of the current crop of leaders.
Grooming future leaders within the organization has the advantage of continuity, known loyalty to the organization and creates a sense of motivation to other employees, who will then work hard to get promotions. Contrary to popular beliefs, a leadership-grooming program may not necessarily be an expensive affair. While organizations with abundance in resources may have an elaborate grooming program, it does not necessarily mean that organizations with limited resources cannot have a grooming program. The mantra “it takes a leader to see a leader” is well applicable to the small organizations without an elaborate mentorship program. In fact, the small size of an organization can play as an advantage in leadership grooming given the proximity to employees. It is easier, therefore for word to get round about an employee’s potential, in addition to the identification of a future talent by the leadership.
Identifying the future talent is just the first step towards grooming future leaders. While employees and the leader can act as headhunters within the organization, bigger corporations traditionally have an elaborate talent-hunting system for this purpose. Whichever the case, the leader, must be at the forefront in identifying future leaders within the organization.
Grooming Future Leaders Part 2
In the previous post, I had started on grooming future leaders. The first and most important step in grooming future leaders is identifying the leaders within the organization using the various methods each organization has at its disposal. Identifying future leaders require scrutiny of the candidate characteristics, which point to the potential of a leader. Among others, potential leaders show initiative, independence in their work, decisive and are creative. Additionally, future leaders display thoughtfulness and are easily adaptive, competently adjusting their strategies to line up with different environment and people.
Once the organization has identified the leaders, it is the responsibility of the management to begin training the future leaders. Both in-house and external training programs can work for an organization that is building the capacity of its employees. An organization with an internal mentorship program that has worked well over the years is Boeing. Under their ‘leaders teaching leaders program,’ the company identifies talent and recruits them to the program. The program has a structure in that mentees are connected with mentors different from each other as a way of build a cross-cultural working relationship, and, therefore, bringing people together.
Training new talent sets the foundation for future leaders. The grooming process should however not stop at training. It is necessary to see the new recruits in action. They need to put the new knowledge in action and should, therefore, get assignments to tasks or small groups where they can test their knowledge and skills learned in the training program.
It is important to remember that talent identification and training does not make a good leader; seeing the leader in action, listening to the leader and providing continued support all work together in molding future leaders. Moreover, giving the potential candidates exciting and challenging tasks helps bolster their confidence, as well as helps in retaining them in the organization.
What Really is Leadership?
Often leadership is synonymous with position in a company, say a manager or an executive of an organization. The seniority and position in the hierarchy of a company usually play for leadership, even among the executives and managers in many organizations. Yet in its simplest of sense, leadership is much more than just a position of superiority in the organizational hierarchy.
Many are the assumption of what leadership entails, with major works written on the different types of leadership. Of late, transformational leadership has been the mainstay of many organizations and literature on leadership, praising this form of leadership for its revolutionary effect especially on cohesion and performance among different organizations. The literature on leadership has also focused on the different characteristics of a leader, as well as the differences between a manager and a leader.
In its simplest form, leadership concerns itself with social influence that makes the most of individual and group efforts towards the attainment of a greater good. The social influence, therefore, negates any form of authority or power over the followers and indeed relies on the followers towards the achievement of a common purpose. At the very least, therefore, leadership is involving and does not entirely rely on giving directions and orders, but on a common consensus towards the achievement of a common goal.
Even more is the fact that leadership involves consultation, wherein the position at the forefront does not necessarily matter. It means facing challenges and seeing them through the eyes of the followers, and finding solutions to these challenges together as a people. Finally, leadership means presenting a shared vision, and adjusting the vision to encompass the hopes and dreams presented in communities of thought, yet keeping in line with the common vision. The leader, in this case, is both the originator and driver of the vision, born of the hopes and dreams of the followers.
Leadership through Networking
Traditionally, rising through the ranks to a leadership position is an attestation of hard work, dedication and investment in time and money (through advanced training) for the leader. At the end of it all, the reward comes with the leadership position. At the top, these leaders, however, discover that the hard work and training did not specifically prepare them for what becomes more of a relational than an analytical type of task in the leadership position. Moreover, many of the leaders also discover the need for a wide range of interaction between them and other stakeholder groups. While most may consider these interactions as distractions from their real work, only those who discover that such mundane relational tasks are part of their actual leadership roles succeed in their work.
Most leaders’ resistance to networking is understandable given the instinctive perception of networking as a manipulative and insincere usage of people to accomplish some things. However, even with such a poor attitude towards networking, most leaders with networks find them completely necessary in their work. In their article “Networks: How Collective Leadership Really Works,” Cullen, Willburn, Chrobot-Mason and Palus make an interesting comment on leadership. They contend, “Networks are the fundamental way in which we can see and measure how collectives are engaging in leadership.” This statement goes a long way to underscore the necessity of networking to a leader.
In an increasingly networked world, leaders must, therefore, take the initiative and create as well as make use of the available networks, regardless of their reservations towards them. The interdependence of people across departments, divisions, and even organizations makes this a necessary evil, especially for a leader keen on making a substantial impact in not only the organization but within the industry that the organization operates.
Types of Networks Avai