Please check out Dr. Tumlin’s book. There is no better advice in life or business than this book. Should be a mandatory read.
Shaping an organization starts with a long look in the mirror. No matter how much I want everyone to embrace an idea or philosophy, it takes inspiration for people to move to action. This inspiration will only come from the one they see and respect as a leader. If you, the leader, actually walks the walk then the example will be validated that your actions back up your vision. If you walk the walk with passion, your vision will take flight with purpose. When a group rallies around a purpose and can see the inspiration to action from a passionate leader, you cannot fail.
Leadership is a gift, given by those who follow, General Mark Welsh
Reinforcement of your vision will be necessary as well. Just because you give an impassioned speech to the troops doesn’t mean a week later they will remember what you said. Even when your walking the walk, don’t expect those around you to maintain the same enthusiasm without a dose of motivation on a regular basis. One thing to avoid in this tactic is motivation without any sight of movement. If your ideas aren’t getting traction, the followers will lose faith that what your selling is nothing more than just that, an idea. When traction occurs, highlight the action with more motivation. Don’t let the movement stall without an adjustment to create more traction.
Give credit where credit is due, with those followers that actually make it happen. It doesn’t matter whose idea it was, it matters who put legs under it and birth the idea into action. Followers live for accomplishing goals inline with their purpose. Connect these two and you begin designing a culture. Followers want to accomplish more to take them down the road towards the destination of purpose.
There is a lot more to building a culture that embraces challenges that some fear as change. It all starts with who their leader is and what he/she looks like to the masses. An organization can sniff out insincerity a mile away. You cannot fake your passion and example of leadership. You can try it. Once.
We all make mistakes along the way. How you handle the mistakes will also define who you are in their eyes. Be humble, honest and open about your actions. If you stumble, make sure it’s with grace. Never compromise your ethics. Stand up in front of the group and own any failures or mistakes that come from honest effort. Mistakes and failures can actually reinforce your respect as a leader depending on how you handle them. Honesty maintains trust in that others see who you profess to be, the leader. We are not always right, but we try.
I have not failed. I’ve just found 10000 ways that won’t work. ~Thomas Edison
Parting shot; Leadership is how to be, not how to do… Frances Hesselbein
One of the first lessons of leadership for me came when I was approached by the guys working for me at the station who asked “why does Lonnie always get to drive the truck?” You see I made the assignments at the start of the shift and driver was a select assignment. Our department did not have a rank of driver (yet) and we rotated or left the assignment up to the station officer. I thought I would take this opportunity to fire up those that wanted to drive so I gave the speech.
I started by talking about the Texas Rangers baseball team. I asked if everyone knew of the backup catcher? No one really could tell me much about the backup. Pudge Rodriquez was the starter and he was somewhat of a phenom that everyone knew. I explained the back up wants to play, but he doesn’t always get to. Pudge played most games (99 to 29) because his skills are a notch above Junior Ortiz, backup.
“It does not matter how many times you get knocked down, but how many times you get up.”-Vince Lombardi
I was on fire now, sports examples with direct correlation of desire and performance. Surely I was motivating the guys to work hard at knowing the job and going the extra mile to prove their competence. But the mood didn’t seem to be improving, in fact it was getting cold and quiet. Did they not get the comparison? Even Lonnie seemed to not get it.
They sat quietly until I finished and there were no questions. I dismissed them and scratched my head. Replaying my speech in my head, I started to hear that maybe Lonnie was just favored and popular. How did I know he was any better than the rest? I didn’t benchmark performance. I didn’t layout expected skill sets associated with driving. In fact, I had not invested in their individual growth. What they heard, “we suck, Lonnie’s popular”.
“Winning as a team is better than anything. It’s great to share success.”- Jim Harbaugh
I’ll never forget that day, they didn’t let me by rubbing it in and laughing at my “leadership” skills. That’s just how we roll around the firehouse. After they got over the stupidity of their leader, they continued to school me on what their needs were. I just needed to open my eyes and listen to them.
Since that time, I have tried to be a student of the potential followers around me. Listening to what I say from their perspective, and I stay away from the “Win one for the Gipper” speeches.
Last word; Strong leaders will foster an environment that allows leadership to be questioned. This can be one of the healthiest learning opportunities for a leader, and the team.