Everyone has their own personal definition of what leadership is. Many of these maturations are trying to clarify what the difference is between a leader and a manager instead of recognizing that these are two different skill sets that have a close association. Above all, leadership will be defined simply as influencing others to complete actions. There are good and bad leadership styles and behaviors, but the overarching premise is that leadership is how to get others to complete work.
To lead a team to accomplish goals, the aim of the leader is to fully leverage the team’s skills to accomplish the highest number of goals. A leader can take that approach and give their team all the goals that they are to complete and they will limit their team to being implementors instead of innovators. The full utilization model would be to facilitate goal development with the whole team participating. This not only brings in multiple and process level perspectives, but it also engages the organization. It sends the message that the team is expected to provide ideas and that they will take ownership of their completion. This is the next progressive step of the leader achieving their goal of fully utilizing the team.
This changes the previous leadership models of goal dictation and telling the team what to do into the role of a facilitator of the goal development process. Due to this change in role from director to facilitator the focus shifts from having to be the smartest person in the room to the one that can give the best perspective around the issue while posing thought inducing questions to the team. This enables the second element of then coaching the team on the ideation process instead of coaching only on the outcomes of their actions.
Recent Gallup surveys have found that only a third of workers in the United States are engaged in their work. This is not a new trend and one which Silicon Valley tried to address by giving employees numerous perks to raise engagement. Dry cleaning, childcare, free lunches, video games, and more were offered in the hopes that this would drive employee productivity. The survey results found though that these perks don’t increase productivity but added new points of contention in the office. The main factor in driving higher levels of engagement and productivity in the workplace all point back to having competent leaders that focus on putting their team in a position to succeed.
Sound leadership gives the organization purpose and perspective. They help guide the vision and strategic direction. Giving the organization the perspective and understanding to enable team decision making in what direction the company moves. They then support the innovation process implementation by committing resources to bring the concept to reality.
Leadership also sets the behavioral norms of the organization. These norms create and then police the culture of how people interact. These leadership behaviors encourage the level of creativity and openness to mental exploration. They give the team permission to mentally explore ideas while also facilitating team interactions.
Recent research on humility by Jia Hu supports this creation of innovative environments. They found that in organizations where employees value egalitarianism, showing humility provides open communication and creativity. Their research also found that in hierarchical organizations that employees expect the leader to make decisions and that if the leader shows humility they look weak and indecisive.
Much has been covered on the importance of trust, respect, and risk enablement to the group creation process. Leadership is the driving force behind these behaviors as they are the ones that create the environment of respect and model those same behaviors when talking about their bosses, employees, and peers. This behavior of respect builds the trust needed to encourage out of the box thinking by the organization. This also supports and encourages risk-taking which is necessary to achieve disruptive innovation and change management.
Leadership has the greatest influence over the three other quadrants. Leaders own the culture. They create environmental conditions which make the workplace a good or bad to innovate. They can enable or disable the process and the leader builds and fosters a good or a bad team dynamic.
Beginning with the environment, leadership builds the workplace and sets the tone. While they lead the organization in most cases they set the vision in accordance with the mission. Leadership supplies the team with an organizational and political perspective on the requirements and constraints. This information can then be deciphered by the team on how to accomplish their work and create within their design parameters.
The leadership guides the work process and runs the organization’s operations. This can occur in negative manners of directing processes and maintaining high levels of control. This can also be highly positive in giving ownership of the work to the employees, encouraging experimentation, and focusing on the learning process. In this secondary role, the leadership plays the role of the process facilitator, guiding the team through each step while carefully not taking away their vested interest.
Lastly, the leadership interacts with the team dynamic as they can be the center of the team. It begins with the hiring and assembly of the team. They then put in the effort to form the team to build and then maintain the team chemistry. They are then tasked with the ultimate team creativity paradox where they must foster safety, trust, and vulnerability so that the team expresses their ideas, but they also must foster candid debate where ideas are discussed, vetted, and scaffolded.
Rebecca Shambaugh’s research on team creativity found that team failure in creative performance was due to their manager. More specifically, their manager’s lack of available time and bandwidth has a direct effect on their inability to enable team creativity. However, managers don’t understand their value to the team and have lost their ability to prioritize. This decreased mindfulness and constant overwhelming keep the leader from being able to inspire their teams into being something great.
Fortunately, this doesn’t have to be a permanent condition for the management team. Teams unlock creativity by applying slight improvements. It begins with not letting the process and requirements restrict the team’s creative thought as too many rules can negate their brainstorming process. By forcing the team to ask the questions of why they can’t do it will reframe their perspective and let them figuratively throw spaghetti on the wall trying to determine which ideas will stick. This can only work if they reveal their sticky floors of self-limiting beliefs or assumptions. Once revealed, the team can transform and achieve a growth mindset where the people will have a self-efficacy to improve their own effort.
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