Any leader in an organization has gone through upheavals, huge losses, scandals, mergers, divisions, long hard times, low commitment, low cooperation, and mistrust.
To unify the fractured organization in which fear and uncertainty are common, and increase confidence and inspiration, I recommend 5 essential leadership tips.
Almost everyone knows the importance of vision for a leader. The problem is that most leaders do not correctly articulate the vision of their organization.
“Unity”, “growth” or “a better future” are not visions. There is also no financial goal to be delivered on a certain date. The latter is an objective, the former is nothing more than an abstract pillar. Nice and nice words, they sure are, but it’s not a vision and it definitely won’t inspire action.
A true vision paints a clear picture of what the world might look like if all goes perfectly.
It is an ideal. And for it to inspire people to act, that vision has to describe a world that would benefit people.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. described his vision in words so clear that the rest of us could imagine exactly what a world he dreamed of might be like. A world where one day little black children will be able to join hands with little white children.
The Civil Rights Movement in the US was the path that would be taken to achieve that vision.
There are leaders who think that the plan is more important than the vision. The reality is quite the opposite. A plan is uncertain, changeable, and sometimes flawed. The vision must be immovable, fixed, and inspiring.
2. Ask people to contribute
Once the vision is clear, a real leader asks those who believe to find ways to contribute and move toward that vision.
Weak leaders are those who promise to lead the people, the company or a nation to happiness. It is a promise that they cannot keep. And the reason is simple. Executives and governments are not strong enough to promote entire cultures.
The leader’s responsibility is to remind us where we are going, set the path, find the resources, and support all those who are committed to helping advance the vision.
This gives the whole feeling that we are contributing to something bigger than ourselves.
When our leaders fail to invite their people to join them (they will only join if the vision is clear and inspiring), then the people will fold their arms and wait for their leaders to “solve” all the problems.
A sure recipe for failure and discontent. However, when our leaders ask for our help, we become the entrepreneurs, innovators, and guardians of the vision. This, in turn, establishes a solid foundation for the work to advance beyond the mandate of any leader.
We all want the opportunity to contribute to something we believe in.
When people ask for something, this does not mean that leaders necessarily give them what people really want. Good leaders listen, listen, listen, and work to understand why people are asking for what they are asking for.
The Brexit vote is a perfect example. Many of the people who voted for Britain to leave the EU weren’t actually voting for Brexit (the number of Google searches after the “what is the EU” vote is a clue).
What people were expressing was a sense of being forgotten. They were expressing insecurity about their future. They expressed frustration with income inequality. They expressed the uncertainty of a future for which their leaders offered no vision.
5. Consider it your last job
It is common to see a politician motivated by reelection, or an executive who acts to protect his bond, or when a colleague works to advance his own career at the expense of ours.
The leader who demonstrates their contribution to us and the vision as a priority, even if it costs them an election, a bonus or a promotion, that is when they will have the support of their people.
This, sadly, is one of the hardest things for leaders to do. Especially when money, power, and fame are present.
It’s difficult for an executive to put their people first when compensation models often reward them for putting their people second.
The great leaders sacrifice their interests to protect the lives of their people and never sacrifice their people to protect their interests.
If we believe that they are acting with our interests in mind, trust and cooperation thrive within the organization. If we believe that they are more concerned with their careers, money, or glory over our well-being, cynicism, paranoia, mistrust, and selfishness prevail.
On the contrary, when we are confident that our leaders are dedicated to a unique and unshakable vision, when we see that they are working to give us the tools we need to contribute to that vision when we feel that they listen and understand our real needs, we will gladly offer our blood and sweat and tears to advance towards the vision.