Driving along a national road, I slow down and then stop, mirroring the response of the drivers in front of me. Curious to see the cause, I watch a mother duck leading her ducklings across the busy highway. She clearly is not aware of the danger; and her offspring follow her dutifully because that’s what ducklings do. When leaders do that they place themselves, their team and their organizations at risk.
In times of change it is not always business as usual, with the leader making the rules, setting the goals and the members of the team following blindly. Good leaders know that they do not have everything it takes to make the anticipated change process work. If it is going to succeed then they need teams of highly talented people who use their individual and corporate strengths to make sure they remain ahead of their competitors, retain their best employees and hire new, talented people who will ensure that the organization remains fresh and relevant.
According to the Gallup Foundation who have studied and worked with thousands of leadership teams, there are four distinct domains of leadership strength. Effective leaders know that they alone cannot be strong in all four domains, or possess all of the 34 talent themes identified by Gallup. They surround themselves with teams who, together, have all of the domains represented. These are:
Relationship Building: Leaders strong in this domain are ” the glue that keep the team together. They create groups and organizations that are greater than the sum of their parts.” Some of the talent themes in this domain are adaptability, positivity, empathy, developer and relator.
Strategic Thinking: “:They keep the team focused on what could be. They absorb and analyse information and help the team to make better decisions. They stretch our thinking for the future.” Among those are the futurists, ideas people, learners, strategic thinkers, and analysts.
Influencing: ” They help the team to reach a broader audience; to make their ideas heard inside and outside the organization …” Talent themes include: self assurance; command; activator and maximizer.
Execution: Leaders and team members with executing talents know “how to make things happen. They can turn ideas into reality, and work tirelessly to make sure that the work is done.” Executing talents include achiever; responsibility; arranger focus and discipline.
In times of change effective leaders create fellowship teams, an image which I take from The Lord Of The Rings. Shy, young Frodo Baggins would never have been able to destroy the ring which threatened the world in which he lived without his team members, each of whom had the unique strengths and qualities required to complete this seemingly impossible mission. Together they were able to do it. Alone, Frodo would have failed.
It is the responsibility of the leader to determine, in consultation with key stakeholders, the direction in which the organization is moving. It is often appropriate for the leader to tell the management team what is expected of them, particularly when time does not allow for high levels of participation in the decision making process. When the team members are talented it isn’t generally appropriate to tell them how to achieve their goals. They hold one another accountable for what they say they will do, trusting that all of them will make their unique strengths contribution to the outcome.
The effective leader, offering encouragement along the way, makes sure that they stay on track and pull together to achieve the end result. And, when the goal has been achieved, they celebrate their individual and group successes; count their learnings, and prepare for the next challenge, knowing that they are positioned to succeed.
Of a good leader who talks little, when [her] work is done, [her] aim fulfilled, they will say, ” We did it ourselves.” Lao Tzu.
My encouragement to leaders today is to re-evaluate what your own strengths are and to lead your team on a journey towards unlocking their unique potential, both for their own self development and in service of the team and organization.