by Dicky Sykes
You darn better believe it matters, not mediocre leadership but leadership that creates a culture of followership. Anne Mulcahy, former CEO of Xerox Corporation worked side-by-side with subordinates and was known for her ability to create followership. At the time Ms. Mulcahy became CEO of Xerox the company was nearly bankrupt and facing an accounting scandal. Her leadership style which was consistent with boosting employee moral and utilizing attentive listening skills was behind the company’s miraculous turnaround. Followership is the ability to create a culture where others follow you; they believe in who you are, what you do (where what you do matches with what you say) and what you value. Your top management team is energized by your clear vision, purpose and passion and they are willing to travel the globe to expand the company brand and sell your products or services. The greatness of a leader is reflected in their ability to move others to take action on behalf of their vision. Bottom line is effective leaders know how to build relationships and influence others.
Many changes have occurred during the last decade but the changes that are crucial for you to understand as a leader is the new workforce which is multicultural, multilingual and multigenerational, and that organizations are moving away from a hierarchy to a more flat structure. This flat structure is largely focused on team collaboration, creativity and innovation. Dogmatic, elusive, domineering and all controlling leaders that sit on their mountaintops are the ones that cause friction, sabotage and dissent to occur within organizations. Especially in lean times, when you are asking others to do more with less, you better hope your employees like and respect you.
Everyone at some point in their career has had a terrible boss, a leader that caused dissent, frustration, and confusion within the department and secretly all you wanted to do was sabotage him or her in some insidious way. You may be feeling that way right now. We know this type of environment is akin to a slow acting poison that eventually erodes morale, eats away profit and destroys relationships. Ah, but the boss, the boss you like and respect, the boss who is equitable in decisions, shows empathy, self-regulates emotions so they don’t put your head on the chopping block when you make a mistake or embarrass you in front of your colleagues, the boss who is a coach instead of judge, jury and executor; well that is the boss for whom you swim the English Channel.
More research is leading towards success being predicated on personality types that exhibit more than just logic, analysis and cold hard reason. Many CEOs are labeled leaders because of the power and influence they have but many of the successful ones have power and influence because they are found to be inclusive, humanistic, self aware and enjoy a positive outlook. The good news is research has uncovered that you don’t have to be born with many of the characteristics that make a good leader. In the article “What We Know About Leadership”, Robert Hogan suggest that leadership skills are the easiest to train, so you too can learn the skills to get your employees to swim the English Channel or at least stay willingly past 5:00 pm. How do you build a team that performs well relative to its competition or with the luck of the Irish, maybe beats its competition? Here are a few tips, let’s call it:
Vision and Strategy
As a leader you must be able to project a clear vision to explain to the team the purpose and mission of its key activities. What do I mean by vision? There is no ambiguity in the vision or the message. Do you know that sneaker company that starts with an N? The cofounder had a vision to make a better running shoe for athletes. He had a burning passion in his soul to make a better, faster, lighter weight running shoe for athletes; that’s how it all started. He searched the world for better, lighter materials and one day decided he and his business partner (who was his coach by the way) could manufacture the sneakers themselves. It all started from a clear vision; a vision driven by passion. A clear vision allows everyone to know what the goals, roles and objectives are and strategy is the map that tells the team how the company is going to accomplish those goals and objectives. Strategy is the action plan.
Give Power Away
Think about the people in your life who motivated, encouraged and believed in you; coaches, teachers, Girl Scout Leaders. Think about how they made you feel. They made you feel like you could be anything, do anything, achieve all your dreams. Leaders give others opportunity, courage and confidence and in return, the people they help never stop singing their praises. Interview any successful person and regardless of the number of years that have passed, they will tell you about the person who believed in them and gave them power. By giving someone power and placing them in a leadership role, you become more powerful, not less. The people you help talk about you and what you’ve done, which promotes you as being a powerful, trustworthy, caring and likeable person and that expands your influence, which gives you more power to help more people and the cycle repeats itself. When you give power away it comes right back to you. It’s called the virtuous cycle.
Too many leaders don’t embrace this approach for a number of reasons but the number one reason is fear, fear that someone will outshine them. Think of that television host whom we all know and the power, opportunities and leadership roles she has given to so many. Has it taken away from her leadership, power and influence? No. It has made her one of the most influential and powerful women in the world. You can’t build a great company or manage a great team without giving opportunity, power and leadership roles to others.
Integrity and Responsibility
A leader’s actions and words have to be aligned; you can’t say one thing and do another. Leaders with integrity inspire confidence, courage and calculated risk taking in others. Leaders are fair and equitable and lead by good example so team members feel safe to innovate, create and shine in their presence. They take responsibility for their actions good or bad and don’t run and hide or shift the blame when the going gets tough. Business relationships are built on respect and trust and leaders with integrity exhibit those qualities effortlessly. Leaders with integrity are loyal, dependable and trustworthy. With corporate scandals (Enron, WorldCom, Tyco) and society’s skepticism of politicians, people want leaders that have integrity.
Diversity a Business Imperative
Replicating oneself on one’s staff feels safe, good and easy; however, it does not necessarily produce the strongest team. In the team environment, it is referred to as the, “sameness barrier.” If we are all thinking the same, can we quickly and efficiently develop innovation and creativity when problem solving? In a multicultural world, understanding cultural differences at home and abroad is a business imperative. Leaders that understand the power of diversity and who have teams that are diverse in culture, education, religion, ideas, etc., are the biggest winners.
Dicky Sykes, the President of DGS Consulting LLC, is pursuing a Masters in Psychology at Walden University. She is a featured guest columnist for We Magazine for Women, Kalon Women, The Savvy Gal and Women Online Magazine. Need a career coach? Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 404 567-5790. To order ‘Yes You Can Still Find a Job’ on audio CD, log onto www.dgsconsultingllc.com Job tips offered in Spanish $5.99 –MP3 version only and Korean MP3 and audio CD at http://korean.dgsconsultingllc.com.