When I made the decision to write this blog about the definition of leadership I had a flashback to my youth. I was a Star Trek fan (well, I still am!) and I remembered an episode where Spock reminded Captain Kirk that he would lose faith and command of the crew if he were seen as vulnerable in any way and perceived as less than perfect.
Since all of these series are now available on Netflix I decided it was pertinent research to look up and watch the episode again.
Throughout the episode, all of the crew were looking to the captain for guidance, orders and decision making. No recommendations were sought but plenty of dilemmas were brought his way and he was expected to know the answers and give the orders.
The episode was created in the 1960’s and although was intended to represent a perfect future including a perfect hierarchy of command chain, it represented an outdated ideology, even in the military this method of leadership is realised to be ineffective. And yet it’s still applied in many businesses.
I’m certainly not infallible and I don’t profess to be in any way. I don’t know everything there is to know and If I tried to then I’d be making my strengths weaker by making my weaknesses stronger and this would be a mistake. Between my team, we make stuff happen together, we all have different strengths and we play to them.
My definition of Leadership: Sharing a vision that inspires others and then creating the environment where everybody in your team can become the best they can be at playing their part in helping that vision become a reality.
I would suggest that a leader is more like a gardener. A gardener will develop an idea of what they want their garden to look like and the experience they want visitors to have. They put in the plants and flowers that will help their vision come true. And then that gardener waters and feeds the plants, keeps the weeds out that could damage the plants or would prevent the vision becoming a reality. Always continuing to ensure that the environment for each plant and flower is just right so that the plant can flourish and become the best that it can be.
People are the same, people need to be in the right environment where they’re encouraged and are free to become the best they can be. Where a genuine interest is taken in them. Where their needs are met.
If they’re not enthusiastic about your vision then they simply aren’t right for your team – find the people who are inspired by your vision. Use the initiative ladder concept I referred to in Fantastic Teams blog #1 Get your team to step up and allow to them to make the decisions that ultimately fit with your values and beliefs.
Just as with flowers and plants, if people aren’t performing, there’s a very high chance it’s down to the leader who hasn’t created a performance environment.
3 things that really help create the right environment, Equality, Camaraderie and a Sense of Achievement. Here’s a brief insight to each.
Equality can apply in many ways, fair reward, fair conditions, fair attention from you. In this case I’ll focus on the latter, who do you give most of your time to? We often take for granted the great performers in the business, internally pleased that they’re just getting on with doing a great job and forget to tell them and show them the gratitude they deserve. Conversely, we often spend more time with the people who simply aren’t right for the business, trying to get them onboard. Trying to get them to do better. This demoralises the better performers. Great leaders hire slow and fire fast. I’ve been guilty of spending too much time trying to bring someone on when in my heart I knew within a few days that I’d hired the wrong person. It’s harsh but hiring the wrong people is like planting weeds in the garden, they’ll stifle and negatively affect the other team members and the overall vision.
A lack of camaraderie can also inhibit performance. Create a buzz, set goals that everyone is involved in. Be careful not to set goals that ‘tunnel vision’ the team on the result of the goal and at the expense of everything else. Carefully consider your goals, set milestones and create camaraderie in achieving them. Celebrate every win – together.
Sense of achievement.
Help each member of your team develop a sense of achievement. Is their workload realistic? Do they finish the day feeling like they’ve achieved stuff or finish the day 3/4 through a list of jobs that were unreasonable in the first place? This can lead to worry and stress and an ever increasing catch-up list. I often find that my team members take too much on themselves. I have to convince them to reduce the list to just the most important stuff in order to feel they’re achieving what they need to. Stuff can creep in to workloads that’s all important. Deciding the most important and feeling comfortable about eliminating items can be difficult to do alone.
Spend good quality time with all of your team. Understand them as individuals, learn their strengths and their motivations. (it’s most often not financial). Work with them to play to their strengths and create the environment that motivates them.
All of this contributes to creating a high performance environment that will inevitably take the business toward your vision. Your job as leader is to be the gardener who works to ensure the environment is the best you can make it.
Go be a gardener.