What does a great manager look like? What does a great leader do to increase their impact and effectiveness?
There is no shortage of advice and content trying to answer those questions. There are over 70,000 books and videos on this topic and companies spend billions of dollars in attempt to answer these questions. Increasing leadership impact is always at the top of the list when companies define their top talent issues and access to content has never been easier, yet we still struggle to replicate great leaders within our organizations.
Yes, there is a difference between some management and leadership activities but the aspiration should be for everyone in a management position to also effectively lead their team. In fact, the people on your team desire and expect you to lead. A manager who does not lead might have positional authority but they will have very little influence and impact. In our evolving leadership landscape, the ability to gain influence and maximize impact are critical indicators of leadership success.
Leadership impact does not happen accidentally. It happens intentionally. When I think about where leaders need to intentionally spend time in order to effectively lead their teams, I think about driving actions in four specific areas. The key word here is intentional. Leadership can be accidental, and many people in positions of management operate accidentally, but maximizing leadership impact requires being intentional. Something might happen accidentally but sustained impact only happens intentionally.
To help me focus on being intentional in my leadership, I came up with these four action verbs. These verbs help ensure I am driving appropriate action and help ensure I have the right balance in my leadership. I can sit down each week and ask the questions, “what does my team need from me this week to be successful?” and “what does each individual on my team need from me this week to elevate themselves and be positioned for success?”. These verbs help provide a framework so I can support leading my team to their next level and hold myself accountable to drive actions that increase my leadership impact.
In the coming weeks, I will deep dive into each of these action verbs and provide more practical ways to drive leadership action in each, but here’s an overview of the four verbs and what they mean for the leader.
Aspire is about clarifying vision. It’s about investing in what “is” today for what “could and should” be in the future. The vision could be at a team/organization level or at the individual level with each person on your team. The focus here is to serve as a guide to help your team define and understand what their preferred future looks like. The goal here is for everyone to have clarity on what the aspirations are so there is alignment around a singular purpose.
Your team will follow clarity and need to understand the “why” behind what you do. They need to know there is a defined and preferred future that is even greater than today and is connected with their own visions and values.
I love the Proverb that says, “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.” This Proverb demonstrates what Unlock is all about and why this is an important action verb for a leader.
Unlock is about helping your team go further, faster. It’s about engaging below the line to understand how to fight for and bring out the best in the people you lead. The ceiling can be raised for everyone on your team and you, the leader, are in a position to unlock that dormant talent. The Proverb says the “one who has insight” draws out what is hidden and your team needs their leader to engage at that level to gain the insight needed to lead effectively.
Part of your role as a leader is to help activate the vision to action. It’s one thing to aspire but the aspiration needs to be driven to specific and aligned actions. This included helping your team understand their connection, contribution to and impact on the bigger vision of your organization. Many employees struggle to make this connection. They don’t see how what they show up every day to do connects to the bigger story going on around them. They don’t connect to the vision. They don’t understand the “why”. They are looking to you, their leader, to help them make this connection and help them understand how their contribution enables the fulfillment of the organization’s vision.
This is the action verb most managers default to when thinking about their role. Your team needs you to provide direction so they know what to do, when to do it, how to do it and who to do it with. They need direction. They need clarity. They need you to ensure the flow of information is happening and they are in a position to do their job at the expected level. The need your direction to help them deliver on their business outcomes.
If you were to perform an audit of your time spent in leadership activities, how would they align with the four verbs above? What would the time allocation look like for each of these verbs? To be an effective leader, there needs to be a balance between each of these, but that will only happen through intentionality. It will not happen by accident.
Take time to think about practical actions that you can take this week within each of the four verbs. Think about it at both the macro (team) and micro (individual team member) levels and build into your own personal management system the discipline to drive action in each. This will allow you to drive up your impact and help ensure you are leading your team holistically.