Leadership from top to bottom
Leadership isn’t just about the top of an organization, but we certainly need and expect it to be there. Leadership is much more about the whole. We, as people, need sound, life-giving leadership throughout our organizations, throughout our society— from top to bottom.
The larger an organization grows, the more diverse and mature its leadership needs to become. Understanding this principle, “everything rises and falls on leadership,” from John Maxwell’s book 5 Levels of Leadership is critical for any organization that has its eyes set on growth, stability and sustainability.
There really are no exceptions. The measures that an owner or executive team take to intentionally prioritize good leadership reflect their recognition of this principle. Leaders influence. Leaders impact. From the influence generated at the executive table, to the impact delivered on the shop floor. Leadership matters.
Culture and Directional Vision
Renowned writer, professor and management consultant Peter Drucker once said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” How true that is! It is critical for leaders to have directional vision, vision that is mapped out with strategic implementation steps. But leaders also need to understand that the culture created within any company, any team, will determine the success of attaining the vision and sustaining the organization or team at that level.
Everything that makes a company is wrapped up in its culture. Culture has shared values. In order for a company to run effectively, the people must share, uphold, and live out common values. Why? Because values drive behavior and action.
What we value reveals who we are, for our values reflect our character. It is a standard or ideal that regulates conduct or policy. Values define our attitudes, behavior and view of the world, and our culture manifests itself in the things we regard as most important. Whatever we prioritize both inside and outside of our walls reveals our culture. The way we think determines who we are.
Structure, Expectations, Accountability & Results
Leadership is always judged on results, regardless of the country, the community, the enterprise, the business, the sport, the team, the family or the relationship. Leadership matters. Good and effective leadership matters. How do you get to the results that are needed and expected of good leadership? Through a three-piece process of setting structure, creating expectations, and then holding people accountable.
It starts with structure. Defining roles, parameters, boundaries, lines of communication, lines of authority. Structure allows for creativity and innovation to be released. It lets people know what they can and cannot do, and allows them to excel at what they can do. Without clearly identified structure, you cannot create clear expectations.
Clear expectations set the mark or raise the bar on actions and behaviors. Defining these lets a person know what is expected from their role. Expectations set parameters for evaluation and get results. Standards are what gets a person into a particular role. Expectations are what drive them forward within that given role to perform at an ever increasing level until a measure is established in their zone of excellence.
Accountability. Without accountability, setting structure and creating expectations are exercises in futility. This is also where leadership is critical. Because accountability is hard. Most people do not like confrontation or hard conversations because it makes it difficult to navigate the relationship. It’s too uncomfortable. But so is working with substandard or wayward work and training habits.
The purpose behind structure, expectations and accountability is for organizational clarity, health, and sustained success. These, along with identified core values, define the culture of the organization and the probability of attaining the vision that is being pursued.
As an organization, there are always new and exciting waters to navigate. And there are no guarantees of success. How you define your business and your culture and the leaders you set in place and continue to elevate into the positional roles will define your success both internally and externally. Will you invest in your people and your business by providing more and more opportunities for leadership development and growth, or do you see it as a non-essential cost and holding no true value. The depth and quality of leadership throughout your organization is the key factor that will strengthen and bolster your organization for the successful drive forward into the future.