One thing that I get asked for help with time and again is the progression from management into leadership.
It’s a challenge I feel comfortable coaching leaders on, because it’s one I well remember myself. It was in my first leadership role that I really started to understand the importance of thinking and acting strategically. Being a very target-driven, results-orientated manager, it took me some time to slow down and do the thinking and analysing required before I could lead.
At Bray Leino Learning, we deliver many management and leadership programmes. When we talk to HR stakeholders about what type of leadership programme they want, they often say they not only want their leaders to be aligned to the organisation’s vision, but to have the other skills that go with it so that they can inspire and motivate their teams to be future fit and business ready. No small feat!
Three key areas always come up when we talk about what it looks like when leaders are well aligned.
- Thinking strategically
- Acting strategically
- Translating this into action for their people
Aligning with strategy is personal. As a leader, why the organisation has its strategy is key to interpreting what it means for you, your managers and your teams. In other words, you need to buy into it. Buy-in isn’t just something you can switch on and off. This is why we in L&D have a role to play in equipping leaders with the skills and knowledge they need to interpret and act on the grand plan.
All good managers will be good communicators, but as leaders we are taking things to a new level.
Strategy might impact people in different ways. It might be controversial, or difficult, or challenging. And leaders need to be able to face and even welcome opposition.
Only when everything is in the open can you hope to influence, motivate and inspire your people. And it’s only if they truly buy in to the porogramme—rather than just doing it to get you off their backs—that you’ll get the high-performing, happy team you want.
One clear sign that a leader is in alignment with strategy is that they can communicate it to you and to others in a compelling way. Being compelling is not natural to most, as anyone who has ever watched a boring PowerPoint presentation knows!
It is almost impossible to communicate powerfully if you do not understand the strategy yourself.
While L&D often supports leaders with their presentation and storytelling skills, if they don’t also help them with comprehension, problem-solving and critical thinking, then no amount of presentation will help.
Skills for understanding are not easily acquired. Critical thinking skills and developed business acumen are essential for insight and comprehension.
Understanding is about comprehension, thinking critically, laterally and creatively, and making informed decisions. Judgement and decision-making skills are as important as the bravery and confidence required to stand by one’s decisions.
Authentic leadership is driven by values. In order to be authentic, leaders need to have bought into the strategy themselves. They could be the best salesperson in the world, but if they haven’t bought in, it will be apparent, and it won’t be convincing.
An inauthentic leader will pretend to be the way they think a leader should be. In hiding the way they really feel about the plans, whatever they may be, they will send out mixed messages—confusing their people by saying one thing, but acting another way about it.
To inspire and motivate, leaders need to be congruent. But congruence doesn’t mean they can’t be open with how they feel.
For example, if one of their values is honesty, they should be honest and say what they think. If they initially had reservations about an aspect of the strategy, let them know they can share that with their people!
Leaders need to know: it’s much better to own your uncertainty than to hide it. That way, the way you are acting will always be authentic.
The modern leader uses their social leadership skills to communicate their vision—both their own, and the organisation’s. The truly social leader uses any opportunity they can—online articles or blogs on the company intranet, or closed social feeds like Yammer or Slack channels, for example—to keep the conversation going.
Social channels are also a great way of communicating your leadership skills and vision. You can take on and deal with criticisms in a public forum – putting your head above the parapet, and moving to a reputation-based model of social leadership, where you can engage with your people publicly.
If you find that your leaders are not aligned with the organisation’s strategy, the next question L&D need to be asking is: Do they have the skills, the courage, the confidence and conviction to do so?
L&D can help leaders acquire and improve the skills that will help them think strategically, act strategically and translate strategy for their people—equipping them for the challenges of their new role, helping them understand what the difference is between managing and leading, and giving them what they need to take that next step in their career!
At Bray Leino Learning, we help you inspire and influence your teams and take charge of business through improved performance and results.
All of our Leading the Way training solutions are tried and tested to ensure outstanding results every time.
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Stephanie Morgan FLPI, Director of Learning Solutions, Bray Leino Learning
Sharing ideas and observations to help improve performance.
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