Being an effective leader
“The best thing a leader can do for a great group is to allow its members to discover their greatness” Warren Bennis and Patricia Ward Biederman
What is the role of a ‘leader’?
Leaders help themselves and others to do the right things. They set direction, build an inspiring vision, and create something new. Leadership is about mapping out where you need to go to “succeed” as a team or organisation, it is dynamic, vibrant, and inspiring. An effective leader is a person who:
- Creates an inspiring vision of the future.
A vision is a realistic, convincing and attractive “best case” depiction of where you want to be in the future. Vision provides direction, sets priorities, and provides a marker, so that you can tell that you’ve achieved what you wanted to achieve.
- Motivates and inspires people to engage with that vision.
A compelling vision provides the foundation for leadership, howeverm it is the leader’s ability to motivate and inspire people that will help them deliver that vision.
- Manages delivery of the vision.
Leaders must ensure that the work required to deliver the vision is properly managed – either by themselves, or by a dedicated manager or team of managers to whom the leader delegates this responsibility – and they need to ensure that their vision is delivered successfully
- Coaches and builds a team, so that it is more effective at achieving the vision.
Individual and team development are important activities carried out by transformational leaders. To develop a team, leaders must first understand team dynamics. The ARRC uses three well-established and popular models to describe this - the Team Management System, Belbin’s Team Roles approach, and Bruce Tuckman’s Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing theory.
- Looks for leadership potential in others.
By developing leadership skills within your team, you create an environment where you can continue success in the long term, and that is a true measure of great leadership. (This introduction is adapted from Mindtools)
At the ARRC we work with people to develop these skills so that leaders can understand how their behaviours impact upon the actions of others. We believe great leaders are those that take the time to listen to those they lead – guiding, encouraging and facilitating their teams to be the best they can be. Actively listening to people means that you, as their leader, can connect to the beliefs that underpin their behaviour and foster loyalty and confidence in the groups to which they belong.
Using narrative to understand those you lead
Being a leader means dealing with complexity, ambiguity and the unknown. Snowden and Boone discuss the challenges of leading others in different contexts that they classify as simple, complicated, complex and chaotic, and talk about the use of narrative techniques to make sense of these different social situations. Two such techniques Future Backwards and Archetypes-Values-Themes are used by the ARRC to demonstrate how narrative can be used to highlight issues and enable people to share, in a safe way, their concerns in the workplace.
Appreciating the value of networks
Being a leader is more than just occupying a role in a hierarchy, it requires you to use your networks to get things done. Effective leaders build robust networks inside and outside their organizations, as well as across hierarchies and silo boundaries. They develop relationships with others based on trust and mutual benefit. The ARRC uses the work of Rob Cross, Bruce Hoppe, Valdis Krebs and Patti Anklam as a way to explore some of the issues of leading with your networks. We use Social Network Analysis as part of our team building and leadership workshops to reveal the many different informal networks people use in their working life and how to cultivate and enhance the benefits these networks provide to you and your team. If you want to explore the ideas of Cross etal further, their book is entitled Driving Results Through Social Networks: How Top Organizations Leverage Networks for Performance and Growth.
Understanding the importance of organisational structure
Your organisational structure shapes people’s thinking and behavior twenty-four hours a day. Different structures subtly promote different sets of values. Pyramidal (traditional or hierarchical) structures tend to restrict thinking because these structures support the values of status and control. Parabolic (umbrella shaped) structures tend to foster thinking because the structure supports the values of relationship and learning.
Organisations shape our internal world too. Whenever we enter a room and become aware of another person from the same organisation most of us make a quick mental reference to the organisation’s pyramidal structure. Is the person above us, below us or on the same level? Our thinking and behaviour changes as a result. The pyramidal (hierarchical) organisational structure encourages mindsets and behaviours that are underpinned by the values of status and control and it is these values that not only drive the exploitation of people and the environment but thwart the expression and use of people’s wisdom.
The key to the wise organisation is the connection between values and organisational structure. Once we can make this connection we can ask new questions. What organisational structures could support the values of relationship and learning? How would the world be different if these values were constantly being reinforced instead of being undermined when they clash with status and control? The ARRC works with Peter Rennie from Leadership Australia, to highlight the importance of organisational structure and to promote the use of parabolic approaches to create the best environments for people to feel valued, fulfilled and creative in whatever work they do. Read more.