Thursday, October 17, 2013

Are You Feeling Disconnected As a Leader?

Guest post from Vince Molinaro, Ph.D.:

It was a tough day. I had finished leading a one-day leader forum event with a new client.  The room had the organization’s top sixty leaders of a large technology services company.
It was a company with many tough issues that they needed to confront. Their business environment was becoming more complex and uncertain. There were many multiple competing and shifting priorities. Many new international competitors were taking away market share. From an organizational standpoint, the leaders didn’t feel there was a compelling strategy they could commit to. They felt rudderless. They also felt they were operating at cross-purposes every single day. Many were feeling disconnected, discounted and undervalued. The talk of driving collaboration and innovation was just that – talk. No real action or tangible evidence of change.

As the day progressed the conversations became heavier and heavier. These leaders had a lot of baggage that they needed to empty before they could move forward.
At the core of their concerns was their frustration that every time they tried to step up as leader, they were beaten down. Ideas were dismissed from upper management. Any attempts to drive change were stopped. This was the core issue that this team of senior leaders had to confront – the poor leadership culture that they allowed to exist in their organization. Not only was it wearing them down. It was eroding the engagement of employees from across the organization.

I’ve been a business leader and leadership consultant for most of my career. In that time, I’ve learned one thing – if you can create a strong leadership culture in your organization, it can become a real differentiator for your company.
But like my new client above, many organizations don’t have strong leadership cultures.  They have deadly ones that erode confidence and commitment of leaders at all levels. Over time, many leaders give up. They end up showing up every day merely going through the motions. This makes the problems even worse.

So how do you turn an organization like this around?
First, you must set the bar high and aspire to build the best leadership in your industry. If you can, it will be a game changer for your company.

Second, you must create what I call your company’s own leadership contract. One that clearly spells out the expectations you have for your leaders and the commitment they must all make to do their part. 

Next, you must support the growth of your leaders, and weed out the ones who are not living up to your expectations.
Finally, find ways to help your leaders build relationships with one another – it’s difficult to build a community of leaders among a group of strangers.

Ultimately it’s about building a strong community of leaders - one where you will see a higher degree of alignment and engagement among your leaders. Where they show up each day committed to being great leaders and demonstrate a “one company” mindset, rather than engaging in turf wars. Where they will break down silos and drive greater innovation, collaboration, and performance.
That’s what happened with my new client. Over a series of additional quarterly meetings they were able to confront the tough stuff. They began to build a vision for the kind of leadership they needed for the future. More importantly, leaders stopped disconnecting and began to feel empowered.

About the Author:

Vince Molinaro, PhD, is the author of The New York Times bestseller The Leadership Contract: The Fine Print to Becoming a Great Leader (Wiley; 2013) and the Managing Director of the Leadership Practice within Knightsbridge Human Capital Solutions, a firm dedicated to helping organizations seamlessly execute their business strategies through their people. Vince advises senior executives and boards on how to make leadership culture their ultimate business differentiator. He has worked with organizations in the energy, financial services, technology, professional services, and public sectors. An engaging speaker, he conducts keynote presentations for corporations and conferences. He is also the author of Leadership Solutions and The Leadership Gap, both published by Wiley.

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