Positioning your Leadership focus
Positioning your leadership focus
In another module we looked at the two broad areas that make a successful team, people and processes. In this module we will drill down a little deeper on why organisations need leaders, and how to position yourself as a leader.
But what we can ALL identify with is the sense of whether you are being well led or not. In general if you work in a team that is well led, you will probably feel more focussed, more in line with the goals and objectives of the team, and probably more happy in your role, regardless of what this role is. If, on the other hand, you work in a team that is NOT being well led, you will probably feel demotivated, undervalued and most likely this is a sentiment that runs through the whole team. Quite often, even if you innately like the work that you are being paid to do, you will not feel like you enjoy your job. This is the impact that leadership has on a team. A leader that positions themselves well will lead well and a leader who positions themselves poorly will not be able to lead because they won’t get to grips with what the team needs.
If we analyse the role of a leader, there are three key areas that a leader needs to constantly keep in his or her sights. These are vision, people and systems. At times each one of these areas may be a harder ‘pull’ and therefore a stronger focus and it is this important understanding that a leader needs to develop. When to focus on the people, when to focus on developing systems, and when to focus on the future, or the vision. We will go through each of these areas in a little more detail in this module and at the end of it you will have more of an idea of the bird’s eye view that a leader should have of their team and its role in the organisation.
Let’s first look at the idea of Vision. The vision of an organisation or a team is like the compass for the team. It gives direction and maintains focus. Thinking about the vision is the same as thinking about the future. Where are we going? Is the key question in this section.
A focus on vision is very important if the team is to achieve in line with where the organisation is going. As a leader, your focus on vision involves two elements, firstly that you keep an eye to the future, and secondly that you communicate it to your team and bring them along with you. Imagine a team that is made up of 10 people, each with their own interpretation of the vision. Whether leaders build this vision with their team, or whether this vision is already in existence, they are responsible for keeping their teams in line with it. Can you imagine how likely it would be for the team to be, to the outside observer, aiming at 10 different visions? A leader who has a clear idea of the vision, and who communicates this frequently and very well, creates clarity in where the team is heading. This limits ambiguity, or directionless actions, and keeps the team going in the same direction. Ultimately this makes for a far higher degree of efficiency as well as a far higher likelihood of harmony along the way. A focus on the vision is ideally where the leader wants to spend most of his or her time. However, in order to do this the other two focus areas need to be well tended to.
The first of these is a focus on the people in the team; in other words the building of positive relationships. Effective teams exist where the people in the team work harmoniously together, and for this to be the case people in a team need to feel valued, and they need to feel part of something bigger than themselves. This requires extensive and continuous attention to relationship building within the team and this responsibility falls mainly to the leader. Good leaders create a culture where there is a strong sense of cohesion and team spirit. They build trust and respect and cement their teams on these values. In healthy team environments, those that have high levels of trust and psychological safety, relationships form easily and are more easily maintained.
Without the focal point of a leader, individuals are likely to operate as individual entities, sometimes lost and lonely, sometimes misguided and sometimes in conflict with those around them. Good leaders constantly watch their teams, checking in with individuals when they need to be checked in with, and focussing on the wellbeing of their whole teams to make sure that the internal working relationships of the team are positive and productive.
The third focus area for leaders is the processes within the team. All organisations rely on processes to effectively achieve their targets. Whether these be electronic systems, or manually maintained files, or indeed just a system of rotas to manage break time duties, all these systems are in place to make sure that the organisation runs smoothly.
It is very important to point out that leaders are NOT supposed to run and maintain the systems as a general rule. This is a role that can easily be delegated to the managers within a team, and should be. However, it IS the leader’s responsibility to make sure that the systems required by the team are in place to support their work. It is the leader’s responsibility to make sure that the team is not overburdened by systems and processes and that the balance between systemic input and creative thought and direction is maintained. This focus on balance is, in essence, where leadership differs from management in an operational sense. Without this bird’s eye view of the team’s operations, systems risk becoming overloaded, plentiful and redundant all at the same time.
These three areas of focus are a simple way of asking yourself, as a leader, where your attention should be lying at any given time. There will be times when your focus has to be on your people, and other times when your attention should be given over to more operational things like processes. The reflective leader knows the difference between the two and knows that if he has a people problem to solve, providing a process solution will not solve the issue. Likewise, if there is a process issue, no amount of coaching and talking to the team will make it better.
But get the balance right, and you will be able to spend more time looking forward towards your vision, and this is what you want to try and achieve. And remember, good leaders spend lots of time WITH their teams, listening to them, talking to them and understanding the pulse of the team. In this way they get to understand where their attention needs to lie.
In the next module we will expand the above ideas further by looking at the 3Ps of leadership. We’ll have a closer look at what happens in teams where some of the skills of a leader may be missing.
Point of Reflection:
Your focus as a leader is to ensure that your team is moving harmoniously towards the vision of the team. Is your team able to articulate the vision effectively and demonstrably?
Personal Development Activity:
Vision Activity (60 mins)
The articulation of a vision is a more complex process than it seems at face value. In your leadership journal, write down the vision as it currently stands. Then answer the following questions about your current vision statement:
- Is the vision statement short and to the point?
- Is the vision statement still relevant to your team?
- Do all the systems and processes that you currently have in operation, easily be seen to link to the attainment of the vision?
- Are all of your team members aware of, and on board with, the vision?
Once you have completed the above exercise, write down three different iterations of the vision statement and begin working towards bringing the words to life in a vision statement that really works for your team as it currently operates.