Organizational Leadership: The Doing of a Leader
March 11, 2019
We have looked at several different areas of leadership. Some have been internal, such as character, and some have been external, such as vision. We have talked of the ‘being’ of a leader. Character, internal beliefs, and crucible experiences often lead to vision. But how do we make vision become reality? What about the ‘doing’ of a leader? That is where organizational leadership becomes important.
There are two key aspects of organizational leadership; selecting the right people and creating an environment for them to succeed. This is a huge part of the doing of a leader. Yes, the leader has to lead the way in coming up with the vision in the first place. They must also continually be the primary evangelist of that vision both within their organization and to the outside world — but this is not sufficient. One of the primary roles of the leader day-to-day is to find the right people and to create a cultural climate that ensures their success.
Finding the Right People
Conventional wisdom says the most qualified candidate is the person with the most experience and skills for the position in question. That is part of the equation but not the whole part. To find candidates who will really drive the vision forward, you need to first hire for character, then for mission, and then for skills. When we talk about character, you should look for team members that are honest, driven, and hardworking. You’ll want them to be team players, humble, and willing to take input. Second, they need to be absolutely sold out for the mission of your organization. If you are Southwest and your mission is to connect people and families at affordable prices, you really need to find candidates who passionately care about this mission. Lastly, your team should have the skills and experience that are required for their roles.
Another layer on top of hiring your team is to consider what kind of leader — indeed what kind of person — you are. You have to know your unique design and how you are wired. This will help you hire a team with complementary skills. If you are a take-charge leader who acts first and thinks later, you might want to hire a team with a more reflective approach. If you are more of a contemplative leader, you might want to have people around you that are more action-oriented. You want to have a team around you with complementary skills, approaches, and ways of thinking.
Creating the Right Environment
Once you have hired the right team, you have to create an environment for them to succeed. A number of companies have excellent visions, great missions, and good values, but the trouble is that they often don’t live them out. Enron suffered one of the biggest bankruptcies in US corporate history in the early 2000s. The CEO was convicted and sentenced to many years in prison and the company was accused of misleading its board and the public. Enron’s core values it claimed it had were respect, integrity, communication and, excellence.
For an organization to succeed, it must truly live its values and mission. It starts at the top with senior leaders modeling the organization’s values and mission in how they live and treat people. Senior leaders such as this will do everything they can to ensure that all the organization’s systems such as hiring, retention, promotion, compensation, and benefits all support the mission, vision, and values of the organization.
When you hire great people and give them a clear mission, you then must step out of the way. Talented, motivated, and driven individuals won’t be micromanaged. Hire the right people based on character, mission, and skills and let them help you make your vision happen. They might do their jobs differently than you would do it, but that is OK. If the job is getting done the right way (in harmony with the mission of the organization by people of good character), then let your team make it happen.
Cultivating a Thriving Organization
The beauty of successful organizational leadership is that it allows senior leaders to do what they love doing and what should be a big part of their job. It allows them to dream big visions and put plans in place to make them happen. When an organization is led by bold visionary leaders who put dreams into action, it motivates the rest of those in the organization even more. After all, these senior leaders have already hired the right people. They have also created an environment for them to succeed. The outcome is that the organization now has leaders leading boldly with a team eager and waiting to bring the vision of the organization to life. Isn’t that what everyone wants?
- Are you looking for character first when hiring? If not, consider redoing your hiring process to ensure people are hired for character, then passion for the mission, and then skills.
- Are all areas of your organization supporting your vision, mission, and values? Take a few moments to do a thorough examination of all your systems (hiring, retention, promotion, compensation, and benefits) to ensure that they all support the vision, mission, and values you believe your organization must have.
- Are you micromanaging or giving your talented and motivated team members the freedom to soar? If you’re micromanaging, re-examine if you have the right team in place that complements you.