For a leader vision is regarded as a hot commodity and though this may be true, there is one thing that is even more exciting than casting and clarifying the vision, it is achieving it. Now this may sound elementary, but there are a growing number of leaders today who have little difficulty in setting out their vision but fail dismally at attempting to achieve it!
Such leaders eventually lose credibility. There are very few leaders who can keep the vision hot and the team motivated indefinitely without announcing to the team, at some point, ‘we are making progress’. A leader who cannot point to actual progress will eventually have to answer some very awkward questions from someone on the team and this should tip the leader off that results are now required.
Accomplishing a vision requires a lot more than motivational talks, emotional stories, slogans and heart searching video clips, and its taken me the best part of thirty plus years to figure this out, but I am clear about it now: There is a huge difference between providing visionary leadership and what I call high -impact leading.
To explain this I have set out 7 key functions that I believe are mandatory for the application of high -impact leading. Whilst I have learned some valuable leadership lessons primarily through its practice, I have also been challenged as a leader to recognize that at a certain point those we lead need more than vision, they need a plan, a step by step explanation of how to move from vision to reality.
The 7 Keys to High Impact leading, I believe can provide you with the basis of ‘moving the process forward’ allowing you and your team to cross the divide from vision to realization.
1. Refine your vision with a strategic plan. It starts by re-examining ‘the main thing”. This calls for an intense period of dialogue to test the relevance of the stated aims and objectives and to reset the course in line with the vision and its outcome. This process allows the team to move from a broad vision/mission definition to a more strategic focus. This extends to specific time-frames that are measured by detailed actions and potential outcomes aligned with the overall strategic objectives. But, you are not done yet until you have set specific goals in conjunction with your refined vision…..key number 2.
2. Setting goals with balance in mind. If you as leader want to lead with high -impact you need to set very specific goals relative to how you lead as well as whom you lead. Personal and organisational goals are to be created with balance otherwise they are unsustainable and can lead to disillusionment at some levels. Be clear on your understanding of balance, a simple test is to ask yourself a set of basic questions; what are the specifics? How much time should be put into each activity? What percentage of our resources should we use?What will help us stay balanced , whole and healthy going forward? What is working already, how can this compliment the new direction? As a high-impact leader you always want to be sure that through growth you move ever closer to creating a perfect balance.
3. Identify Champions. So, you are now ready to announce your goals. You feel nervous, challenged and excited about them, all at the same time. Some members of your team are calling them big, hairy and audacious. That’s when you realize that you need to take one more step if you want to achieve these goals. You need to identify goal champions. To them you only put one question; are you willing to commit the next x years/months of your life to providing leadership for the achievement of the goal(s) we have set? As each one of your team steps up to the plate, enthusiasm will begin to build and you can then begin to imagine, maybe for the first time, what your vision can produce in the future through such a focused effort. Who would not want to be part of an adventure like this!
4. Alignment. Now you would be forgiven if you thought this was it, the stage is set, a redefined vision is in place with clear goals and appointed goal champions. Well, not quite, the need now is to connect each individual, within your sphere of influence, and too instill a sense of responsibility for the whole – then maybe you will start firing on all eight cylinders! I wish I could say this was an easy fix, but the alignment issue is always a big obstacle for any leader. The road will be bumpy and longer than you can ever anticipate, but it is the nature/nurture aspect of true leadership- defined as leading with backbone and heart.
5. Sharing responsibility with the whole. I think I would feel better about the situation in our nation if I knew leaders were drafting bold plans and were doing their best to implement these, even if for some reason they had even failed miserably in the process. At least there would have been an honest effort. But rarely is this the case. More often than not there are people who would love to get involved and to have greater impact, if they just knew what to do. But, they don’t. So they do nothing. These good people have never been led. They have been taught, provided with knowledge, taken courses to improve their skills, but no one has inspired them or mobilized them to co-ordinate their efforts. So their desire to make a difference has been completely frustrated. As leaders we must understand what it means to society as a whole when leadership is ineffective. When those with leadership gifts are placed in positions of leadership fail to lead effectively, the whole is always affected. As a leader you must come to grips with the fact that the gift of leadership is the catalytic gift that energizes, directs and empowers. If you have this gift – then lead!
6. To be a diligent leader. All leaders need to strive continually to lift their leadership capacity to the next level, no matter how difficult that may seem. To move out of present comfort zones and learn new skills and disciplines and if necessary even to submit to a process of ‘re-training’. Diligent leadership calls for you as leader to rise to the challenge and put yourself on an intense growth track, to read, reflect, seek training, look for mentors and begin a non-stop search for the best leadership models you can find. Humble enough to learn and to be courageous enough to apply best practice in appropriate ways to whatever leadership arena you are assigned.
7. Asking the hard questions. Yes, the hard questions, do not fear these, explore and challenge. One such question at this point could be; should you mix management practices with leadership development/training and managing for results? As leader we should make no apology for learning and applying best practice principles that consistently redefine the how and why of leadership. Management practices create efficiency in task accomplishment – leadership is about inspiration. As a leader I say this to you, lead as diligently as you possibly can. Maximize every ounce of the leadership potential within you. Read, study and redefine and for the sake of the whole, develop this gift to the zenith of its potential in your life.
Dare I say it, it is now time for leaders to really lead. Its time for you as leader to be about ‘the main thing’ with diligence and dependence that you may fulfill your destiny as a high – impact leader.