Leaders are people who do the right thing; managers are people who do things right.
-Professor Warren G. Bennis
Warren Gamaliel Bennis was an American scholar, organisational consultant and author, widely regarded as a pioneer of the contemporary field of leadership studies. What Bennis wanted to tell us is that leaders help themselves and others to do the right things. They set direction, build an inspiring vision and create something new. Yet, while leaders set the direction, they must also use management skills to guide their team members to the right destination, in a smooth and efficient way.
In the next 16 instalments, we’ll focus on the process of leadership. In particular, we’ll discuss the ‘transformational leadership’ model, first proposed by James MacGregor Burns and then developed by Bernard Bass. This model highlights visionary thinking and bringing about change, instead of management processes that are designed to maintain and steadily improve the current performance.
Before we start, let us talk about Miyuri. Everyone in the workplace respects Miyuri. Her team members are fiercely loyal and they’re highly successful – as individuals and as a team.
By contrast, other leaders in the organisation report that their team members seem disengaged. They experience high staff turnover and their results are often disappointing.
So, what does Miyuri do that other leaders don’t? To begin with, she regularly reminds her team members of the purpose of their work. And she knows that she’s a role model for her team, so she demonstrates integrity in all of her working relationships.
Miyuri is a transformational leader. She sets high expectations but ‘walks the walk’ to demonstrate the standards that she expects. In the future instalments, we’ll outline how you can become a transformational leader.
Leadership: A definition
To start with, let us try to form a definition of a leader. An effective leader is a person who does four important things.
(1) He creates an inspiring vision of the future.
(2) He motivates team members to engage with that vision.
(3) He manages delivery of the vision.
(4) He coaches and builds a team, so that it is more effective at achieving the vision.
Leadership brings together the skills needed to do these things. We’ll look at each element in more detail.
Step 1: Create an inspiring vision
Why should the team members follow your lead unless there is a compelling reason? This is why you need to create and communicate an inspiring vision of the future.
Your vision needs to set out your team or organisation’s purpose – why you all have to work so hard and do what you do. You develop this partly by understanding the values of the team members you lead, partly by understanding the capabilities and resources of your organisation and partly by conducting an intelligent analysis of your environment and selecting the best way forward within it. This is the subject of business unit strategy and developing a coherent strategy takes a lot of hard work and careful thought. There are a number of tools you could use to develop a vision for your organisation. We will study them in detail in the future.
If you’re developing a vision for your team, it is advisable to start with the company’s mission and vision and explore the ways in which your team can contribute directly to it.
Step 2: Motivate team members to buy into and deliver the vision
Now, starting with your mission statement, you need to appeal to your team members’ values and inspire them with where you’re going to lead them and why. This will help your team members appreciate the positive impact of your vision on them.
Then, talk about your vision often. Link it to team members’ goals and tasks to give it context and help them see how they can contribute to it.
Good leaders also know that nothing significant happens unless they encourage their team members. So, make sure that you know about the different kinds of motivation and use these to inspire your team members to deliver their best.
Step 3: Manage delivery of the vision
A vision is no use on its own: it needs to become reality. However, many leaders make the mistake of developing a vision, but of not putting in the hard and often mundane work of delivering it.
To manage the delivery of your vision, you’ll need to combine effective project management with sensitive change management. This will help you deliver the changes you need with the full support of your team members. Communicate each person’s roles and responsibilities clearly and connect these to your plans. Everyone should fully understand what they’re responsible for and know how you will measure their success. Next, set clear goals for everyone, including some short-term goals that will help your team members achieve quick wins and stay motivated.You may need to build your self-discipline and stamina, so that you don’t let yourself down. And, set a good example to your team members – especially if they’re affected by delays or difficulties – by being a model of hard work and persistence.
Also, stay visible by practicing management by walking around. This is an ideal technique for transformational leaders because it helps you stay connected with daily activities and allows you to answer questions as they arise.
Step 4: Build ever-stronger, trust-based relationships with your team members
As a good leader, you need to focus your attention on your team members and work hard to help them achieve their goals and dreams. Remember - leadership is a long-term process and that, as a leader, you need to work constantly to build relationships, earn trust and help your team members grow as individuals.
Meet your team members individually to understand their developmental needs and help them to meet their career goals. What do they want to achieve in their role? Where do they see themselves five years from now? How can you help them reach this goal?
You can build trust with your team members by being open and honest in your interactions. Use tact to get a better understanding of “what makes your team members tick.”
Lastly, set aside time to coach your team members. When you help them find their own solutions, you not only create a skilled team but you also strengthen their self-confidence and their trust in you.
Team vision statement
And finally, let me give you few tips to writing your team vision statement
1. Define your future state
Ask your team to define the perfect state of being, and then write it down in the present tense. Why do you exist? What’s your purpose?
Examples: Microsoft: “A computer on every desktop.” - Disney: “Make people happy.” Google: “To provide access to the world’s information in one click.”
2. Make it memorable
A team vision is written as a short sentence or statement. And it should inspire. It should be to the point and easy to remember. A well-written vision can give you goose bumps. It should be powerful and say “We do this” -- not “We want to do this” or “We’re going to do this.”
3. Gain consensus
One of the important things in this process is inclusion. Everybody needs to have a say and feel a sense of ownership.
After all, it’s your team’s vision - not your sole vision. The statement should answer the question, “If everything is going right and the way we want things to, here’s what it looks like.” To get buy-in, refer to the vision frequently at all levels in the organisation. This will legitimize it. When it’s done right, it’s not a waste of time.
4. Make it achievable
A great vision is achievable. But, it should also cause the organisation to stretch.
Just think of Michelangelo’s famous painting, The Creation of Adam. You see God and Adam’s fingers very close—almost touching. Your vision should always be a stretch but within reach.
5. Make it visible
It’s your team’s vision. Be proud! Make your tagline visible almost everywhere you go. Put it on giant posters or paint the phrase on the hangar wall or in your lobby. Let your executives, employees and passengers know what you’re about. Put it on your notebook binders and your passenger briefing cards.You should see your vision statement a few times when walking through flight department facilities.
6. Align with your goals
Every year when you set your new annual goals and objectives, you should revisit your vision, mission and values to see if you’re on track. Are your new initiatives going to help you achieve your “larger than life purpose?” Does your vision increase your alignment you with corporate?
Usually the vision changes very little but the mission might change.
(Lionel Wijesiri is a retired corporate director counting three decades of senior management experience. He is now an independent consultant and a freelance journalist. He may be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org)