A year ago, I had the honor of sharing my lessons on leadership with students at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University’s campus in Talloires, France on beautiful Lake Annecy.
Today, I want to take the opportunity to share these lessons with you as we begin a new year. My hope is that they will resonate and prove helpful to you as leaders, and future leaders.
1. Organizations may say they want change but may resist when change is implemented. This is where vision comes in.
It is important to have a vision for your staff and to have one for the divisions you will lead – even if your organization as a whole is lacking one. You are modeling behavior and eventually your whole organization will latch on to an idea of a vision.
Without a picture – or destination – in mind it is hard to be motivational and to engage and energize those around you to actualize it. It will also help to keep everyone focused and somewhat sane through the trials and tribulations of change.
2. Listen and then develop a strategic plan (not the other way around). Communicate that plan to leadership as many times as possible.
If at all possible, buy yourself time to meet and engage other leaders and staff within an organization to assess the culture and the challenges. The challenges will be the tools for helping you devise a strategy that will be effective upon implementation. You must also research the history of strategic plans within an organization to find out what challenges, as a whole, the organization has been attempting to address and how the vision has evolved.
Lastly, communicate your strategy as many times as possible so that everyone understands why you are taking the approach you are. You may want to just get the work done, but it is vitally important that you stop and take the time to explain to key staff why A is happening before B and what the end result will look like and feel like.
3. Identify a champion who can help you navigate the changing relationships of power and who can defend your ideas at the table.
In hindsight, I should have probably listed this as #1. I have seen many well-educated, talented and experienced professionals lose political capital or their jobs because they did not practice this third lesson. A champion is a colleague who has a seat either at the senior leadership team and/or has the trust of the CEO and other leaders. And you should consistently assess the power position of your champion as it will be dynamic, not static, while cultivating more champions.
4. Empower. Empower. Empower.
As many of you have found – and will find – you cannot do everything and do it all well. The demands on your time will be extreme and you will need to be flexible enough to move from leadership, to strategy to execution throughout the day – back and forth – and often within 30-minute increments. It is essential that you have enough confidence in yourself and humility to empower those who work for you and those who work around you.
By empowering others, you give them the ability to grow and develop and to contribute to the organization. Yes, they will make mistakes. But mistakes, to me, are good. I really do not think an individual can grow without making many.
5. Like it or not, as you move up the ladder, politics will have a larger role in your life. Don’t fear it – master it.
As you develop as leaders in your careers, you will deal more and more with internal and external politics.
In a survey of leaders I know, all have mentioned they spend more time on management issues and politics than actually work in the field to the point where they feel somewhat distant from the issues they are working to solve. I think this a real danger and I implore you to always stay connected, and remind others, of whom you are working for.
The goal is to master it, identify trends, and know who is and who is not your champion. Always keep your integrity and make decisions based on what is best for yourself and your team. Trust your gut.
Wishing you all much happiness, peace and success in 2014!