by Michael Holland
The Wright Brothers were successful in inventing and building the first successful controlled airplane even though they were neither as wealthy nor as educated as their rivals (neither brother received a high school diploma). But what they did have was a clear vision, an undying belief, and the capability to align and unify their resources to execute extremely well. This is what we affectionately call leadership.
Leaders often struggle with success because they don’t fully grasp how they themselves are the dynamic in the environment they are attempting to influence. They underestimate both the impact and the limitations of their natural leadership style on their energy and behavior throughout the life cycle of vision to alignment to execution (see a sample profile of this life cycle in action).
- Vision, in its simplest form, is an imagined future state. A vision provides your team with purpose, and guides the development of goals, decision making, and the potential to unify your team. Some of us are naturals at visioning— leveraging optimism and big thinking to be bold in our exploration of what could be. Others struggle with the weight of reality, limiting the potential of boldness.
- Aligning resources is the opposite of directing and delegating. Leaders often believe that when their team is delivering work and being productive, the team is aligned with the leader and the vision. But employees work diligently because they are paid to work, while aligned followers engage in work because they believe in the obtainability of the future state. When a leader has invested in enabling an open communication process that provides clarity and generates enthusiasm, then the all-important buy-in occurs. Are you a patient leader who can develop enthusiasm and collaborative engagement? Or did that last question make you want to stop reading?
- Execution is making the vision come to reality through the aligned resources. Effective execution results from your work enabling and motivating your followers through well-thought-out structures and plans, and from providing continuous, critical feedback on progress. Driving action is important. But you must balance this drive with effective feedback cycles.
So the question you should be asking yourself today is this: is your team following you, or merely working for you?
Coaching Thoughts – For You and Your Peers
- Do you find yourself more likely to underestimate your impact as a leader, or your limitations?
- Which of the three points (Vision, Aligning Resources, or Execution) comes most naturally to you? Which is most difficult? How can you work to improve in that area?