A leader may have many responsibilities depending on how and what they are leading, but there is one important overarching element that should always be at the top of the list. A great leader empowers those they lead to reach the end goal and should put huge weight behind this.
I realize this is a very easy statement to make, yet the importance of helping others see the primary vision or goal and feel that they have contributed to its achievement cannot be understated.
My first experience with this came as a Director in the Theater Arts. As a Director your job is to read the play and make sure your grasp the bigger picture. You cast vision and then you turn to those who will make this objective a reality, the actors. An actor can be a wild creature who sees their part as either pivotal to the play or as trivial. The Director needs to help them see the end goal is just as important to all of the actors as their characters are interwoven and vital to a great performance.
This is accomplished by tasking them with developing their character so completely that they can tell you the character’s favorite color all the way through their motivation for their first entrance on the stage. If an actor then fails to deliver their lines in a helpful way, the Director can go back and ask poignant questions. What is the motivation for your character? How does that motivation impact the other characters? How are you helping to drive the story line and help the other characters achieve their end goal? The director is leading but in a way that asks the actor to see both their own part in greater detail and how that then helps the other actors.
You cannot strong arm or force actors to perform as you want them to. This is because once the play begins the director can only sit and watch it unfold with the audience. The final piece is either a product of great leadership or a disaster. While the director can make adjustments between performances each performance serves as a testimony to their leadership.
Leading in the business world is really not that different. You want your employees or contractors to see and understand the end goal. Helping them know where they are going is vital to the success of the project. Then they need to know what they bring to the table to help reach that goal. Finally they need to see how their role is both supportive of the goals of others and helped by those same people. If they see only their part or feel relegated to the back row then their work will reflect this belief. If one of these people pushes too hard or doesn’t carry their weight the project is likely to fail or not be as amazing as it could be.
This same principle is true when you find yourself leading other leaders. While sitting on the Board of Directors for a local Theater Company I learned this lesson very quickly. Most Boards function by inviting experts in specific fields with a shared passion to come together for the betterment of the entity. In this case we had a professional accountant, several prominent business people, a doctor, a retired law enforcement officer and a person in the technology industry. They shared a passion to see this theater strive to be the best performing arts center in the region. These people with vastly different experience, expertise and personalities needed to unite to achieve this singular goal.
To lead these people requires good communication throughout the entire process. All the individuals needed to be clear on the end goal and the means by which this will be achieved. They have to be helped in how best to communicate their skills and ideas to other people with often opposing ideas, talents and beliefs. I learned that this is solved by communicating the same goal in several different ways until they could each reiterate the goal with clarity and express their commitment to that goal.
Begin by delegating the needed areas to the person best equipped to achieve that goal. Ask them to communicate their intentions to the group as succinctly as possible and then as the Leader help them clearly express these intentions in ways the group can all understand. Never an easy task but vital to helping them see the unique role that each of them will play.
Together you make sure that each member has the resources they needed to accomplish their task and set deadline for this to happen. As the leader it is then incumbent of you to stay in contact with each person to make sure they are on task and oriented towards the goal. If they begin to drift you can talk with them to help them reorient without them feeling as if they have lost your trust or their purpose in the task. Good leadership is a helpful directing of people not a strong arming or devaluation of them.
Good leaders view as their top responsibility the development of leaders out of those that they lead. Each of these people is gifted differently, thus can bring a unique perspective, vitality and flavor to the project (if you let them).
To ultimately accomplish this apply this is a rather simple formula:
#1 – Communicate the goal to them.
#2 – Help them see their unique and amazing role in achieving the goal.
#3 – Equip them to be successful.
#4 – Then be present enough to help them do a great job (but not so present that they feel as if you don’t believe they will succeed).
The formula it simple…the application may take some work, but the end results will be above and beyond anything you expect. As a bonus, you will not be “in it” alone as you navigate towards your goals; you will have a team of people leading with you.
Author: Amanda Goff