Leadership expert, Mark Hannum reveals proven, evidence-based methods that will turn you into a leader worth following.
Leading is often described as making sense of a mess. In an organization of people, there are goals, ideas, understandings, acts, activities, interactions that all play out in a cultural context (the rules, norms, and values). As a leader, we make sense of all of this, we organize the mess…positively…creatively….productively.
The organizing process, which I would equate to navigating through fog, can sometimes be reflexive and automatic—something that we do to check a series of boxes and keep things moving forward. As leaders, we know what we should do and what we should know. We see a gap or a problem, we close the gap. We can effectively solve problems with our expertise and our authority, and the resources we have at our disposal.
In contrast, when we’re trying to make sense of the big picture level goals, ideas, understandings, acts, activities, and understandings at 40,000 feet, our first tool is each of us. As leaders we show up to others and we begin an interaction with them. Our commitment, the passion of our heart and mind toward a vision or goal, is another player we bring to every interaction we have. It is the inspiration that pours out of us and breathes life into the relationship. Worn outwardly, it shows us as vulnerable and courageous, and self-motivated.
When we allow our commitment to be met by others, we engage. The interactions and activities start to make sense, we are all productive in service of our commitment together. We build ideas together, we share mutual values. Our work together creates a continuous feedback loop between us and we grow.
Reaching for that goal though, will require us to deviate from our norms, our rules, and our process. At some point, the rules and norms will need a refresh. We will have to find an innovation to elevate our performance so that the new goal or vision can be reached. Our collective expertise will give us meaningful ideas that will matter to the achievements to come.
Many of us move as quickly as possible of course, to the organizing stage where we feel comfortable. Putting people into structures, giving clear direction, arranging meetings, establishing deadlines, checking off deliverables, and hopefully seeing results. Organizing the mess into results.
Purposeful Leadership is all of the above: inspiring, engaging, innovating, achieving, and becoming. It is too easy to be automatic, reflexive in our choices as leaders. As leaders, we have our trusted partners, our “usual suspects.” Purposeful leadership is not automatic or reflexive. It is inclusive. Leadership in any form is about bringing people together, not separating them, and never about excluding them
The power we have as leaders is the power to create goals, validate ideas and understandings, determine activities and interactions by our choices as leaders. Every day, we choose to exclude or include. In every meeting, we could choose the “usual suspects” or we could bring in new voices, new ideas, and new people. Every team we put together can be a diverse team of identity and experience, and the benefits are powerful. Purposeful leadership requires savvy practitioners. How savvy are you?