There have been myriad books written on leadership styles, personality assessments and interpersonal relationships. If we bring it back to the fundamentals, once we as individuals have met our basic needs (think Maslow’s Hierarchy), we aim to fulfil our psychological and self-fulfilment needs. What this translates to is a desire for belongingness, a sense of accomplishment, and to achieve full potential. Tying this into the workplace, an organisation’s realisation of full potential is to satisfy the customer. In our experience, firms who have transformed their style to be more agile and less controlling tend to get the most out of their employees, reduce leadership waste, and ultimately provide better customer experience.
What are some of the common indicators of leadership waste?
Death by KPI
Leaders often impose ‘vanity metrics’ that are overly detailed and cumbersome – eventually this can suffocate a team or organisation. Most KPIs are fixed for periods of time, too internally focused, and stifle innovation. Aligning metrics to a team’s customer purpose and clearing out the rest will focus the team on what’s important, and stop them worrying about things that are not.
How do leaders protect their teams from constant noise? Leaders need to be clear on their priorities, so teams are able understand what the ultimate objective is of their work. If there are too many competing priorities in a large portfolio of work, team members can suffer from ‘change fatigue’ and eventually become disengaged. Finally, entire projects or programmes may be abandoned – often at a large cost to the business.
Managing from the ‘glass office’
For example, too much PowerPoint as a form of communication drives ‘leadership by remote control’. Leadership teams that do not spend enough time at the coalface lose touch with the day-to-day operation of the business. Similarly, change programmes where only senior leaders are engaged run the risk of lacking full information on what is critical to the customer. Decisions made without collaboration miss out on key facts. Leaders need to walk the ‘Gemba’ walk - go and see what is happening in the business for themselves.
What can transformational leaders do to instil a culture of empowerment and agility within the workforce?
Craft one clear vision
Lots of organisations have a vision, but haven’t taken the time to translate this into clarity around customer purpose. If teams are aligned on the ‘why’ the rest is easy. Efforts are focussed on the activities that are most valuable. Teams work together to achieve the vision, building a culture of collaboration and cohesiveness.
Have an open mind
Encourage recommendations from team members and work with them to craft ideas into valuable initiatives. Agreeing and communicating a clear outcome is more powerful than dictating the steps along the way. Delegating in this manner breeds ownership and a strong sense of accountability. We each want our own ideas to win!
Focus on success, even during a mistake
When things go wrong, decisions are made at the top (and often with imperfect information); however, the customer demand has not changed. Shift to all of the things that have been done well, and take the error as an opportunity to learn.
Leadership through empowerment, not control, is positioning leaders to leverage their entire workforce to weather the evolving pace of change – breeding organisational agility.