Leadership is a complex function within an organization involving an interplay of multiple factors. In their day to day activities a leader has to shuffle between multiple tasks in an artistic manner. The time and focus spent by a leader on each of their core tasks will differ depending on the size of the organization and the leader’s level in the hierarchy. Furthermore, the tasks interplay and do not necessarily follow a linear sequence.
So what are the core tasks that a leader has to deal with?
Every morning, at the start of the morning huddle, you or someone from your team states the organization’s vision/mission (hopefully by heart and not reading from a manual)
For example “The mission of the Walt Disney company is to be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information”
Why do I need to do that? To know the why of the existence of the business. It provides purpose, focus , direction , and the big picture view. And ofcourse, to check whether today’s scheduled work is aligned with that higher purpose.You will be surprised to know how many people in your organization do not know the organization’s vision/mission and cannot draw a link between their work and the company’s vision/mission.
Do I know the business model of the organization and how does my team fit in. Do I have access to market/competitor information relevant to my team’s services.
Why do I need to know that? We have no options here. It simply has to be done if we want to be around for a long time. Of course, the initial learning curve requires experience and smart work. However, as you get more and more closer to the situation on the ground, the daily work on this task changes from acquiring information to responding pronto/predicting next steps.
Do I have a strategy to achieve my set goals? Now, few people are skilled at drawing up a strategy, which is an art as well as a science. So, if this is not your strength, look around in your team or seek help from your superior.
Why do I need to have one? Any successful business/operation has to have a sound strategy because a poor strategy is recipe for disaster.
When Alan Lafley took over as head of Procter & Gamble in 2000, the company was struggling. The stock price has dropped by more than 50% over the last six months, a loss of more than $50 billion in market capitalization!!! A.G Lafley and his team devised a new strategy that transformed the company from a $39 billion company to a $76 billion company. And that strategy has been showcased in the best-selling book ‘The Game Changer’ (authored by Alan Lafley & Ram Charan)
Here too, the initial strategy-drawing stage takes time, and later shifts to tweaking and finally it almost shifts into an unconscious awareness on a daily basis. However, one needs to revisit the set strategy from time to time as new developments occur.
Now that we have covered the easy part (easy compared to what’s next), we will cover the people-related essentials.
Every morning, take a quick self-check. How am I feeling today-physically and psychologically? Am I at ease or on edge? What is my leadership style? Am I task-oriented or relationship-oriented? Am I motivated, energized? Am I feared or respected by my people? How good are my interpersonal skills? Do I know my strengths & weaknesses? Do I have the self-confidence to acknowledge them? Am I aware of my attitudes and prejudices? Am I congruent in what I think, feel and do? Am I Machiavellian or am I on the path to becoming a self-actualized person? Do I know how to respond to the answers to all these questions? Let’s stop. Yes, we can’t spend the entire day doing this self-check. But as a leader, you need to go down this road, sooner than later.
Why do I need to manage myself everyday? Because unless we fix ourselves, we can’t help others to fulfill their potential. And we all know that this is part of the existential question of how to live. And the more we evolve, the more effective we can function as a leader.
Every morning, take a quick pulse of your team. How do they feel today? physically and psychologically. Are they at ease or on edge? What’s their morale? Are they motivated, energized? What motivates them? How do I motivate them? Is there camaraderie and respect among themselves? Are there any trust issues? Is there conflict in the air and do I have the skills in conflict resolution? Do I know their strengths & weaknesses? Am I aware of their attitudes and prejudices? Are they congruent in their thinking, feeling and behavior? Have you set and communicated clear goals and expectations with them? Do you need to worry about something today? Do you need to provide feedback to anyone today? Does anyone deserve recognition today? Does the team need to celebrate today? Do I know how to respond to the answers to all these questions?
Let’s stop again. Yes, we can’t spend the same amount of time on this check everyday. But as a leader, you need to go down this road too. And the more adept you get at it, the less time you need to spend at it.
Why do I need to manage people everyday? Because herein lies the glory or gory of interpersonal relationships at work and the coveted but elusive employee satisfaction and employee engagement scores.
Lastly, no leadership essential is complete without mention of innovation, which is increasingly being recognized as a business survival essential for the 21st century.
“There is always a better way of doing things. Find it”. These words by renowned scientist, Thomas Edison, sums up the essence of innovation. However, we have to admit that most leaders are poor in driving innovation. Most people assume that innovation is the job of the R&D Department. They can’t be more wrong. Innovation has to be integrated in everything everyone does. Another common misconception about innovation is that someone will emerge as a hero with a breakthrough idea. Driving innovation is a process and requires a culture of ‘making it happen’ rather than ‘shooting it down’
Why do I need to drive innovation? Because innovation is a competitive strength. In today’s fast paced world, today’s niche product or service becomes a commodity tomorrow. And the best way to keep yourself in the reckoning is by surprising your customers with better products and services.
Summing up, everyday leadership essentials seems like a daunting task. And daunting it is! But it is worth every bit if your personal mission is to achieve authentic leadership stature and make an uplifting difference for the organization and for the people you work with. Now, who wants to be a leader?