Agility is increasingly seen by leading organisations as vital for success for any leader – or aspiring leader. Greenbank have developed a Leadership Agility questionnaire for you to assess for personal leadership agility – identifying where you are strong as well as where you need to develop to stay competitive in today’s fast changing and demanding world.
If you have not yet completed the questionnaire now is your chance. Find out how flexible and agile your leadership style is at the moment and get some top tips for what you can do to keep ahead of the crowd! Take this short test to find out how you benchmark against others – you may be surprised!Contact us to access the questionnaire
Now we want to drill down and get really specific about the first two Agility Success Drivers:
Vision & Clarity of Purpose
Leadership today is rather like being captain of a ship in stormy seas: exhilarating but sometimes scary. Never knowing for sure when the next big wave will hit and toss the ship around.
The word ‘Vision’ has probably been over used in past years and like me I’m sure that the Corporate Vision Statement posters in reception areas have often felt contrived or empty – however the time has now come I believe to take a fresh look at Vision because when change is quite frankly rampant and surprise is only ever a moment away it becomes vital to have your eye on the horizon with a clear view of where you are ultimately aiming and just why you are heading there.
Being clear of their personal vision is of course just the beginning of the story. Leaders need this for their own sanity of course but they also need to make sure that their teams share their sense of purpose and focus on the end goal. They need to share their vision clearly so that others really understand it and they need to sell their vision – why it makes sense and how everyone can pursue and engage with that vision. And that requires real skill, energy and commitment – a poster, email or annual conference simply won’t do it!
And of course doing nothing and focussing only on today’s actions and next quarter’s targets will not be sufficient. As one senior leader once told me: “If you don’t tell people where we are going and why…they will make it up! And you might not like what they assume.”
So how do we make sure that our Vision is clear, shared, and one which allows our people to follow us willingly and with commitment and enthusiasm?
There is no single approach; no holy grail on this so having a range of ideas, levers to pull and best practice is surely the way to go. That way you can try them out and discover what works for you and for the wide range of people who you need to engage with.
Try following these five top tips to ensure success:
- Connect on an emotional level
- Tell personal stories
- Paint a picture
- Engage and Listen
1) Connect on an emotional level
Leaders need to communicate their vision of the future in both rational and emotive terms.
Too often, leaders use logic and financial goals to motivate people. But people don’t get out of bed in the morning just to achieve financial objectives – they come to work wanting to be inspired by a sense of doing something important, something that makes a difference. And they want to be proud of the way their company behaves.
To inspire others we need to paint a vivid picture of success, describing the future in both rational terms (the numbers) and emotive terms (how it would feel for all concerned). This bringing together of the rational and the emotional is key to inspiring people. Fusing the future vision (what success will look and feel like) to the purpose (what important thing we are here to do) and to the values (how we do it) was what engages hearts and minds.
2) Story telling
Stories are powerful, yet underutilised in most business presentations. So think about your next presentation and remember that it’s not just the content that will make the message stick; it’s also how well you tap into people’s emotions.
One of my favourites is a very old story that is still very powerful and relevant today. It’s a story about three stone masons:
‘A traveller came upon a group of three hard-at-work stonemasons, and asked each in turn what he was doing.
The first said, “I am sanding down this block of marble.”
The second said, “I am preparing a foundation.”
The third said, “I am building a cathedral.”
At a time when everyone is concerned with how organisations can keep people engaged and motivated how do we as leaders give our ‘stonemasons’ a sense of meaning and make sure that they understand they are not just laying bricks but ‘building the cathedral.’
Personal stories connect with people. Tell more of them.
3) Inspire – Enthusiasm and personal impact
Mae West once said “It’s not what you say, it’s the way that you say it”, and I’m not going to disagree with the grand Dame of film.
Now some leaders have a natural gift for presenting – often called charisma – a natural ability to enthuse and inspire, to charm and connect emotionally with their audience. For others it doesn’t come so naturally. But the good news is that personal impact coaching can help any leader develop these skills and introduce some simple techniques and behaviours that really work.
Read more about how you can develop stronger impact and confidence and bring real life to your vision and really inspire your audience.
4) A picture tells a thousand stories
Several years ago on a Leadership programme we were exploring story telling and one senior leader used a painting as the focus for his story. He showed us a painting and linked it to the challenges his own organisation and people were facing and how it could be seen as a story of tragedy or rescue, of despair or new hope. Over 5 years on I still remember his story and I suspect others in the room will do so too. Is there a picture that would help you connect this strongly and be so memorable?
On a different note pictures can often be a better way capture the broad canvas of your vision- showing connections and linkages and making the vision come to life. One organisation we worked with in recent years had a graphic display of their vision and it was far richer, memorable and inspiring than any PowerPoint presentation could ever be.
We have recently been using graphic facilitation as part of our leadership programmes to capture learning – both formal and informal – and we know from this experience just what a powerful communication tool it can be. Read more about this in one of our recent articles and see if this technique could add new colour and life to your vision.
5) Engage, share and (really) listen
“It’s not just the leaders’ vision that’s important. It has to be a shared vision,” says Jim Kouzes in Kouzes and Posner’s ‘The Leadership Challenge’. For a vision to really grab the imagination of a team, it has to incorporate the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of those you are attempting to lead. “If they [employees] can’t see themselves in the picture, then they can’t imagine that it’s a possibility for them.” In other words, the vision cannot belong to the leader alone. When a vision is shared—taking into account the hopes and dreams of the team—it’s easier to attract people and give people the energy and confidence to withstand hurdles and challenges on the road to building a successful company.
To really engage others leaders must learn to listen more attentively, become a more proficient conversationalist, bring more of their personality to their leadership, be more audience-centric and learn how to tell stories. They also need to articulate a clear sense of purpose that provides a ‘true north’ for their leadership.
The only visions that will really take hold are shared visions—and you will create them only when you listen very, very closely to others, appreciate their hopes, and attend to their needs. The best leaders are able to bring their people into the future because they make sense of that future for them and show how their vision fits their world, their dreams and their aspirations.
Watch out for the next in this series of Leadership blogs and join us as we take a look at another key success driver – Collaboration and Partnering.
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