This is a time when leadership matters. Uncertainty will be the norm for the foreseeable future. In this climate leaders can help to provide a greater degree of certainty, they can inspire people to perform well in spite of what sometimes feels like chaos around them.
Mark Fletcher from Eversheds recently wrote an interesting article on “What Makes a Great Leader”. He suggested that the actions and words of Leaders can give people hope or make them want to give up. They can create an environment in which people not only survive but really thrive. I agree.
The ability of Leaders to achieve all of these things will depend on some pretty obvious things:
Leaders are scrutinised; every remark you make, every action you take is talked about, pondered over, read into. Passing comments can acquire the status of published doctrine.
Since you will be judged on the basis of everything you say and do, you need to be very clear about who you are and what you stand for.
How you dress, how you act, where you eat lunch, what you read and how you relax will be deemed to be fair topics for conversation. If you don’t think any of these things should be relevant you are probably right; but the truth is that such matters do have an impact and you need to decide just what that should be and be in control of it.
If your messages are to have real weight and resonance they need to be authentic and built on who you really are. For example if you say to staff that “they will be the first to know about changes that affect them directly” and then they find out the really important stuff from third parties it will really damage credibility.
Your staff will cross check your written and spoken messages against how you behave even in casual circumstances, so if you present yourself as a friendly person in your blog and then ignore them when you walk down a corridor it can undermine your personal brand.
We could spend a large amount of time on personal brand; why it is so important and how to enhance it. All I will say is that your leadership really matters. People look up to you and they will judge you. Leaders are powerful people and need you use their power carefully.
To enhance communications there are a few simple rules.
1. Take stock – Understand how your people see the world today, what factors are affecting them.
2. Be clear – About who you are, what you stand for and ensure that your behaviours reflect your values.
3. Set the tone – Through your communications, your behaviours and ensure all your systems and processes support this.
4. Be the source – Ensure you are the primary source of information about the future of your organisation and know what other sources exist.
5. Vision – Have you set out what the future looks like? Is this widely known and understood? Does it create hope?
6. Listen – Do you actively encourage people to tell you what they think? Do you encourage contrasting and sometimes conflicting views? Is there evidence that your people feel able to express their view?
7. Up close and personal – Get out there and talk and listen to people. Find and encourage honest feedback.
8. Look for the line of sight between each person and the organisation’s objectives.
9. Tell more stories – Identify the narratives based on the line of sight.
10. Celebrate every success and mark the progress.
What do you think makes a great Leader? Who are the great Leaders of today?