Empowering employees is not an optional extra for companies, but a necessity for their survival and growth in a turbulent but opportunity-filled world. The question is: Do companies have the depth of leadership in their organizations to ensure employees are so fully engaged in the business that they become unstoppable in bringing all their skill, passion, and creativity to bear in creating and delivering, through their work, the highest value they can for customers and a business they regard as their ‘own’? After all, is that not what leadership is supposed to do—inspire vision in others?
Seven sequential leadership imperatives follow. These must permeate every rank of leadership in an organization for each employee to be able to say, “There is something unique about me and my contribution to implementing the business plan, clarified and documented in my goals, which gives the business its strategic focus and ability to grow.”
Imperative One: A business vision must be personal for everyone who must implement it.
Only when people ‘taste’ it and ‘feel’ it will they personalize it and ‘want’ it. A leader must be able to both create and convey his or her vision. To permanently change the way employees think about themselves and their performance requires that it must first be important enough to them to do so. Here is the principle that unlocks the process. What a business requires to distinguish itself and thrive can only be provided by the people in the business when they distinguish themselves and thrive. And leadership is the key to connecting the ‘distinguishing and thriving of a business’ with the ‘distinguishing and thriving’ of its employees.
Imperative Two: Leader inspiration must have a tangible effect on the actions of their team.
This is the stimulus from a leader that awakens a team to possibilities they could not see before but that the leader clearly does see, believe in, and want. This inspiration which characterizes the leader must be transferred to the team to enable them to take on the vision and make it their own, and thereby wanting what the leader wants. But leader inspiration must be constant to ensure team enthusiasm—a difficult challenge for any leader. If enthusiasm is lost, team effort can be reduced to the ordinariness of work, and the vision reduced to dried ink on a page. Leader inspiration is what provides the motivating environment in which team entrepreneurial drive can thrive.
Imperative Three: Inspiration needs a positive environment in which to thrive.
Creating a positive environment is the leader’s strategy to protect the tangible effect of their inspiration on the people they lead. It is done by setting a high standard for thoughts, words, and actions thereby creating a culture of excellence in which the business mission can be pursued and achieved. A good leader has a positive attitude, especially in a crisis.
Imperative Four: Trust between a leader and team unlocks confidence to achieve big goals.
When trust is high almost anything can be achieved, but when trust breaks down no amount of competence can rescue commitment to the goal, making failure certain… trust is simply that important. Leaders must be challenged to make the first move in winning the trust of their team, because it takes a belief in their ability for team members to have the confidence to demonstrate it.
Imperative Five: Communication determines the spirit and accuracy of how things get done in a team.
To communicate effectively a leader must be confident that their highest intentions will always be understood. To ensure this, there must be complete consistency between what is said, how it is said, and the actions that support communication. This makes communication much more than a set of verbal instructions. Communication becomes a demonstration of who the leader is as a person. This helps convey not only their strategies and plans, but their inspirational ideas, ideals, standards, and values they consider necessary to achieve their mission.
Imperative Six: A leader must be free to lead and not be overwhelmed by work load.
One of the greatest challenges of a leader is to manage the balance between work output and leadership impact, as both are important. To do so, a leader must be free to lead and mentor their team, so that the ever changing levels of performance that their business requires are reached. Teams must engage in learning from experiences to continually tweak performance. The role of team leader is to coordinate this and help fuse it into a seamless learning experience.
Imperative Seven: Make strategy execution effective through entrepreneurial engagement.
Executing a business’s mission is the key role of a leader at any level and is the key measure of their success. This means bringing ‘life’ to business plans through the entrepreneurial engagement of every employee so that customers can be impacted, revenues and efficiencies are lifted and profit growth is secured.
James Raath was born in London and grew up in South Africa. He delivers speaking and consultancy services to companies who want to maximise the commercial value of their employees. Raath recently finished his first book, Love Mondays (Clink Street Publishing) to be released February 2nd.