Life is interesting and life is strange. We all have been challenged in recent years and had much change to deal with and lead through. I’ve had my fair share of interesting twists and turns throughout the years of my personal and professional life. Life takes us to places we never thought or dreamed we would go. By leveraging these experiences, we can accomplish our goals and dreams to reach the summit of our potential as leaders. I say this because driving change in any organization isn’t an easy road; it takes courage. Someone must do it and as a leader you need to do this well.
To drive and lead your organization through changes, you need to know what and why you are doing what you do. As humans, we are drawn to those who have the confidence to lead the path. For better or worse, it has been proven in history. So, I encourage you, as a leader in your organization, to shape the vision you would like to create—in a team, a department, or as the CEO of an organization. “How do I make sure this vision is clear to all whom I am leading?” you might be asking. It is a good question, and I hope to clarify it now.
“If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.” –Steve Jobs
I filled multiple leadership roles throughout my life. One of the first leadership roles I remember goes back to my childhood. My sister and I loved to create pseudo-organizations and we would swap being the president or secretary. It was very serious. We had dues and would collect our hard-earned allowance. We would also do fundraisers for our organization around the neighborhood. At the time, it was all fun and games, but I now realize it was training for both of us in our future careers.
Those were easier times, and we could experiment. In looking back, I now realize how important those experiences were. We were testing leadership styles, gaining donors, and testing fundraising techniques. Oh yes, as pre-teens we were testing the boundaries. These experiences have shaped my view on what works in leadership and how best to apply the principles I believe work today.
“By leadership, we mean the art of getting someone else to do something that you want done because he wants to do it.” –Dwight D. Eisenhower
The first step is clarity. What do you or your organization want to accomplish? As a leader, you need to clearly convey the goals. Where are you steering the boat? What end goal are you aiming for? What change do you want to see in the world? These are important questions to answer if anyone will follow you in the first place. It doesn’t matter if you are an owner of a company or a leader of a small team, or somewhere in between, what matters is that the people you are leading know which direction they are going.
In current times, where change is constant and technology is reshaping industries, this vision is critical to the success of your organization. The pace of change and technology is so vast that many in the workforce are being left behind. We cannot cling to what worked previously but rather need to have an ever-evolving viewpoint of what will work in the future. At the same time, we as leaders need to create that clarity around where we drive our organizations; otherwise, we lose energy, and complacency will replace productivity, or worse our best talent will leave our organization.
As leaders, we are responsible to provide focus. Workers can toil many hours and not produce anything. I am seeing that with my clients on a day-to-day basis. There is so much wasted time and energy on things that do not matter. To be an effective leader, you need to provide that focus on what matters most—that is, what will accomplish the goal that is most important to your organization. Otherwise, you are leaving it to chance how your employees understand how to spend their time. When I am working with organizations, the first thing I do is make sure I understand how they want me to spend my time. It isn’t how I do what I do that matters; it’s more about determining what is important for me to do based on what the organization wants to accomplish. As Lewis Carroll once said, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” In leading your organization, you do not want to be seen as unfocused. You need to face your fears and show a strong front to whomever you are leading; otherwise, they will doubt your leadership.
This is not a path for the weak or undetermined. You will be challenged by others, and so the conviction you have as a leader is key to how successful you will be with your teams. In thinking about leveraging technology, lacking conviction is a real and constant threat to your success. How often are you gathering data on how the world is changing and evolving? You will need to understand how the external environment is or will impact the direction of your organization. I suggest keeping up with trends in artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, and so forth, along with globalization and how it will impact where the talent lies. All of these are shaping and shifting our working environments now. Be sure you don’t get left behind!