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Creating a Culture of Leadership
Legendary football manager Vince Lombardi has called the notion of a “born leader” a myth. For Lombardi, success was about passion, commitment and sacrifice – not genetics. Does this mean anyone can become a leader?
While it’s theoretically possible that many people have the ability to lead, becoming a leader is a bit more complicated than just wanting to be. Above all, you want your organization to be one in which leadership can flourish. In order to create a culture of leadership, several important factors must be taken into account.
What is your organizational climate?
Maybe a better way to ask this question is, “how does it feel in there”? The answer does not depend on how you feel, but rather on how your employees feel. Why do they come to work? Are they engaged and passionate about what they do?
When you look at the top companies – those that have outperformed benchmarks like the Dow five years in a row – one thing they always have in common is a positive organizational climate based on these six dimensions:
§ Flexibility – Are there a lot of strict and unnecessary rules? Are new ideas welcomed and received with interest?
§ Accountability – Are employees micromanaged or empowered to do their job?
§ Standards – Is it a fair environment? Is everyone held to the same performance criteria?
§ Rewards – Are people properly compensated for a job well done. Remember: it’s never just about the money.
§ Clarity – Are employees clear about what success looks like? can they name their goals and the goals of the organization, and what they need to do to achieve them?
§ Team Commitment – If all of the above is in order, you probably have this one in mind. The thing to watch here is, who is bringing the team down?
If your ultimate goal is maximum performance – and who isn’t? – then establishing the optimal climate for your organization is essential. But whose task it is to establish the perfect climate? Simple: who’s the boss?
It is the leader of an organization who establishes the ideal organizational climate – the temperature in which everyone has the potential, tools and support to excel.
A distinction is essential: the difference between climate and culture. Contrary to popular belief, culture tends to be a more evolutionary process, so as a leader there’s not much you can do to change it, at least in the short term. But you can do a lot to cultivate a climate of excellence.
Take, for example, the automotive body supply industry. As president of Auto Body Jobbers Warehouse in Paterson, NJ, Bill Nathan works in an industry that is still heavily male-dominated. “I can pretty much guarantee we’ll be talking about Monday Night Football, not Dancing with the Stars,” he says. “While we can’t do much to change the nature of the industry, we can certainly impact the climate of our own business to get the results we need.”
What is your leadership style?
A major contributor to organizational climate — and overall success — is your leadership style. Which of these statements best describes yours?
§ Directive – You demand immediate compliance. Most people rely on this style of leadership because, frankly, it’s easy. The directive style may be appropriate for crisis management but, in general, most people do not like being told what to do.
§ Affiliation – You care more about the individual than the outcome. For example, if an employee’s performance has declined, the Affiliate Leader asks, “Are you okay? rather than “How can we get you back on track?”
§ Participative – You like to involve the team and build consensus on all decisions.
§ Visionary – You are able to describe the path you want your employees to take and why; it gives a sense of clarity, direction, and awareness of long-term goals.
§ Rhythm – “I come at 6 a.m. and expect you to too.” Don’t expect miracles; many find this style demoralizing.
§ Training – Instruction; identify options together; task-oriented. The coach uses mentoring and teaching to raise the performance level of employees.
Some of these styles may seem negative; others, such as participatory or coaching styles, have obvious advantages. The truth is that no single style is ideal in all situations. This is why top leaders tend to use a toolbox approach; they learned to assess individual situations and use the right style to achieve the desired result; this is called creative leadership.
If you can’t decide which style describes your style, then why not go straight to the source? Use an assessment tool to ask your employees about your leadership style and compare it to your own self-assessment. You might be surprised by the answers.
What is your ‘EQ’?
To be a successful leader, intellectual and industrial intelligence is obvious. But there’s another key indicator that great leaders share: they also tend to have high emotional intelligence scores.
In a nutshell, emotional intelligence (also known as emotional quotient or EQ) can be defined as how aware you are of yourself and how you interact with others. EQ is generally divided into four “groups”:
§ Self-knowledge: What are your passions? Negative triggers? Before we can lead others, we need to know ourselves and what motivates or derails us.
§ Self-management: How do you manage your personal triggers? As important as this is in your personal life, it’s even more crucial in a professional context.
§ Social awareness: what are your employees’ derailers or triggers? Can you appreciate or sympathize with their unique feelings and perspectives?
§ Relationship management: how do you manage your knowledge of the above three areas?
EQ assessment tools that measure various skills can help you gauge the gap between theory and practice. It’s important to be completely honest with yourself when evaluating your EQ, as the results will directly impact your effectiveness as a leader.
What motivates you?
The first thing to recognize about ourselves and those around us is that we all have motivations – for success, affiliation, achievement and power – that are undeniable and, on the whole, very positive. They help us progress, both socially and economically. Known as social motivations, these drivers include:
§ Affiliation – The need for strong personal relationships; to be liked or to be part of a group.
§ Achievement – The need for continuous improvement and recognition.
§ Power – There are two dimensions to this: socialized power and personalized power. Socialized power is about using your knowledge and expertise for the good of others, while personalization is a bit less altruistic: using your expertise to better yourself or increase your personal influence on others.
Take golf, for example. Someone driven by affiliation may be on the course to socialize and just have fun, while the achievement-driven player is driven to improve their score. Finally, the powerful leader is forced to dominate everyone in the foursome…and maybe even bet on the outcome.
So how do social motivations affect leadership? Take the need for affiliation, for example. Taken too far – a need to be loved by everyone – being too affiliative can quickly undermine effective leadership.
Ideally, leaders should be about socialized power, followed by success. But keep in mind that looks can be deceiving: not all “powerful” people are as obvious as the Donald Trumps of the world.
Creative leadership: the key to success
It’s pretty obvious that every leader needs to be aware of their own motivations to grow and improve, but they also need to figure out what motivates their employees. Once this is established, a superior leader will use this information to create an environment where peak performance is the norm.
Today, motivated and dynamic leaders have no shortage of tools they can use to assess their employees (and themselves) and create a climate in which leadership can flourish. Somewhere, Coach Lombardi is smiling.
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