All across America, businesses invest time, energy and resources in different leadership programs, and why not? Leadership makes a difference. There are as many different opinions as to what leadership means as there are cars on the road and there are as many different and effective leadership styles as there are people to lead. .
With such emphasis put on the need to be a great leader, and with a volatile market changing at an accelerated rate, you need to ask yourself some questions. What is right for your company and your people? Is the leadership style that worked five years ago, or even just six months ago, still as effective today? Is your leadership style moving you closer to your vision or farther away from it?
With these questions and more, it is no wonder that leaders sometimes get confused about their roles. First, have a clear understanding of the definition of the word “lead.” To lead is to show the way by going in advance or to be a guide—to be first, to be ahead.
If to lead is to go first as a guide, then as a leader, you must have a clear vision of where you are going. Can you clearly communicate the exact outcome you envision, or are you really telling people what you don’t want and what they are doing wrong? As a leader, you are responsible for the direction of the company or team by knowing the vision and clearly communicating it.
When you have a clear vision of what success looks like, leadership can be broken down into two critical success factors: (1) inspiration toward a vision and (2) removing any obstacles that get in the way of that vision.
First, the major role of a leader is to inspire people to go where they didn’t think they could go. A leader sets the team’s direction by incorporating the corporate vision with new ideas, new goals, new training, and new spirit; helping each team member create his or her own individual vision drives the corporate vision. Leadership is always about helping the team feel motivated by the power of the vision, yet leaving room for each individual to achieve the goal.
Imagine it’s 1492. A man, who was pretty good with boats, stood on a dock on the coast of Spain with a huge idea, a big audacious vision—to sail around the world. He’ll need three or four boats, a crew to sail the boats, and a whole lot of money. His vision is so grand that people thought he was insane. After all, any sane man could see that the world is flat. Who wants to sail off the edge of the world and die? Not me, you first!
Maybe you’ve had a similar experience when you tried to articulate business objectives for growth and profit. It might as well be 1492, except your people are sitting at desks looking at lots with inventory they know is not right for this market. The crew explains all the reasons why your vision has flaws, and this is where you either become a great leader or succumb to their beliefs and let go of your visions. Just like Columbus, you need to inspire your people to go where they did not think they could go!
That is why the second critical success factor of removing obstacles is so important. A leader finds ways to deal with and eliminate old ideas and paradigms that do not support the new way of being profitable. Leaders find themselves confronting people who are not supportive of the new vision and want to cling to the past. Leaders can never compromise their vision with old, negative beliefs. They can help people understand they always have a choice.
Didn’t Columbus have a few obstacles to overcome? Every single person alive in 1492 believed the earth was flat and the only navigational course anyone could chart was to sail out just so far and turn around before falling off the edge. Maybe Columbus started his crew in small steps. Maybe sail out a little ways to see how successful they were that day. The more they sailed, the more confidence they had in Columbus and the more the crew was willing to commit to the journey.
Commitment at the highest level requires a leader to do whatever is needed to achieve the desired results. Leaders use creativity and personal courage to deal with problems, challenges and obstacles. People will follow when they believe leadership is committed and knows where they are going.
Great organizations have leaders who are committed to the vision, to the development of their people and to their own development as leaders. The actions of leaders are mirrored each and every day by those they lead. Great leaders never say, “Do as I say, not as I do.” If you want your people to perform at a higher level, you must perform at a much higher level.
If you don’t have the leadership skills to lead in this ever-changing market, then find some help. Hire a performance coach. Read books or articles on leadership. Leaders invest in themselves because they realize they need to have the tools to inspire people to go where they didn’t think they could go and remove any obstacles that get in the way. What kind of leader are you?
Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen Group announced the first formal steps toward a partnership that will produce new commercial vehicles and pursue shared innovations in mobile services, autonomy, and electrification.