How often do you come across articles or blog posts that try to overly simplify the role of the leader or are written by people who on the face of you wonder if they ever have actually taken the lead on anything?
I think we would all accept that a very high level, the role of the leader is to move the organisation forward and create sustained success.
But what does that mean in very practical terms?
The first thing is to get a very clear idea of where the organisation is right now. That means getting out into the organisation, connecting with people and really getting a very clear picture of the areas of strengths and the areas of needing attention.
It will involve asking lots of questions, listening a lot and suspending judgements or pre-conceived ideas that you might have.
It will also of course involve looking at performance reports, getting views from users of services, customers, industry influencers.
Next you need to get clear about where you are heading or at least the overall direction of travel. Part of the challenge here is being able to anticipate the changes that may or may not be coming along or may be needed.
The chances are that there are going to be areas where you are going to see decline and maybe not worth being part of longer term, other areas that are maturing and others that are emerging so in reality you are probably going to need to segment the organisation into different groupings.
The next thing that is going to be important in your role as a leader is to win hearts and minds or put more simply to get people on board with what you want to achieve. This is probably one of the most difficult roles you have as a leader. People have a huge tendency to want to stay right where they are and even hold on to things that they don’t like. You know the saying, better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. It’s a good way of thinking about how people respond to change.
If you are ever going to have any chance of getting the support you need you need to win support from what I refer to as a critical mass. There is always going to be a small cohort who will follow everything you propose and a small proportion who will object to everything.
Your challenge is to pay attention to the 80-90% to get your critical mass, not just the 10-20% at the edges.
Another important aspect of the leader is holding people to account. For some this brings up the image of being some sort of ogre so let me explain what I mean. Every leader needs to make expectations of what they want another person to deliver. Usually these are defined in terms key results areas or objectives.
The leader will also want to follow up on progress. When they do this they ask the other person to account for what they have achieved and the progress they are making.
Now there will be times when despite the best endeavours of someone they have not managed to make it. At these times the leader may well have to help them to get to the next stage or getting moving again. On the other hand there may be times when there is a need for a difficult conversation and sometimes even moving on people when despite best intentions it is not working.
Holding people to account can be tough but it does go with the territory of leading whether you like it or not.
The final thing I want to touch on in terms of the leader is empowering people to deliver. Now the word empowerment is banded around a lot and sometimes it is used out of context. You empower people who are already highly competent. In other words you let them know the end outcome and leave it to them to figure out how to achieve that end outcome. Yes you have feedback and accountability but when you empower you are very much taking a hands-off approach.
The Bottom Line: Being a leader requires a range of talents, skills and attributes in my experience. It really isn’t all about big picture and strategy. A lot of your success is doing some simple things well.
Duncan Brodie helps professional people who are highly effective in their field to become highly effective leaders. He invites you to check out his free audio e-course here
Since 2006 I’ve worked with in excess of 7,000 accountants and professionals in workshops, seminars and one to one helping them land their next jobs and become better leaders, presenters and business partners. Before that I spent 25 years in accountancy climbing the career ladder from Payments Clerk to FD. I’m a CIMA Fellow, Certified Professional Coach and Team Coach Facilitator.