What Leaders Do

Effective leaders understand that they provide the vision, meaning and direction that bring focus to their organizations. They also realize that the vision and the measures used to determine an organization’s success must be relevant in the world outside that organization.

Photo by joiseyshowaa, Flickr

Leaders who thrive in tumultuous times (like these) manage to focus on the opportunities change affords without losing sight of their long term vision. Even when surrounded by change and challenge they maintain and communicate a clear purpose. Effective leaders adapt and flow with change, realizing that constant control (especially of people) is not possible.

The most successful leaders seem to have an inner certainty that they can handle whatever comes along. In the midst of turmoil they:

  1. Remain focused on meeting the needs of the customer and on the smooth interaction of the activities and actions that serve the customer well.
  2. Work with everyone involved to control systems, processes and methods (not people) and strive to continuously improve them.
  3. Seek to create outstanding systems that simplify processes, remove obstacles and enable their people to achieve excellent results.

Most importantly, competent leaders understand the interdependence and interaction between systems and people and how each effects the other. They know that organizations are simply structures designed to accomplish an objective by bridging between people and systems and leveraging the points where they intersect.

To remain effective, leaders must embrace and master this interdependence by:

  • understanding both human behavior and the behavior of systems;
  • recognizing the difference between incidental variation and trending circumstances;
  • grasping both the art and science of problem solving; and
  • adopting the continual learning that is essential to growth.

Do you aspire to be an exceptional leader? Take the time to understand how the people and systems in your workplace interact—and how you interact with them.

Ask yourself:

  • Do I clearly and consistently articulate a vision that resonates with me, my people and our customers; or do I send mixed and muddled messages and get side-tracked by the crisis of the moment?
  • Am I creating systems and processes that solve problems, reduce friction and help people work together; or am I placing stumbling blocks along my team’s path to success?
  • Do I overreact to isolated incidents by adding rules and policies designed to prevent the recurrence of something that is unlikely to happen again; or am I focused on removing obstacles and simplifying processes that bog my people down every day?
  • Am I tapping into the collective knowledge of my team to continually improve the way things are done; or is employee feedback just something I gather once a year because I have to?
  • Do I focus on leveraging lessons learned when something goes wrong; or are my people (and am I) afraid to make mistakes?

Leading well means sustaining a clear vision while, at the same time, optimizing the interactions between people and systems in order to achieve that vision. Be the leader who makes it as easy as possible for your team to excel. Be the leader who aims high and then facilitates flow.


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