Saturday, June 30, 2007

Leaders need Followers

I was thinking some more about the topic of taking care of people and the quote I used in a recent post from a retired Army General:

If you are a leader, every once in a while you need to stop and look over your shoulder to make sure people are still following you.

Leaders must constantly be performing a balancing act between time and energy applied forward (looking ahead, anticipating change, providing vision, strategic alignment and planning) and the effort necessary to take care of the team. Clearly we must do both. But without taking care of people and their families, without listening and connecting to our teammates, we risk losing those we intend to lead. And we can never lose sight of the fact that without followers we are not leaders.

I am learning that the higher one goes in an organization, the more one must look to the future. Even in small companies, leaders cannot be consumed by immediate, tactical issues. To do so risks a short career and organizational irrelevancy. It is clear that someone must be looking at the market, investigating new opportunities, and bringing in new business. The critical leader functions of determining purpose, drive, and direction are the necessary focus of the strategic leader.

But we cannot forget those whom we lead. We've got to keep looking over our shoulders and checking on the troops. This is the art of leadership - a delicate balancing act of future and present, planning and execution, then and now.

Examples of those who struggle to do both are all around us. In politics, elected officials quickly forget who they are really working for. They quit listening and become disconnected from their constituents (and soon become "unelected" officials). We see this in churches with clergy who fail to recognize their shrinking congregation (but man are their sermons good...or so they think). We can see it in schools with teachers who focus more on education issues and less on connection issues. And we can see it in the many failed businesses (many with great business plans) whose downfall began when the talent started walking out the door.

It's a balancing act: time and energy invested to the front and to the rear. We all must ensure that the people who are necessary to execute our "brilliant" plans are still engaged, inspired, and connected. Take a look over your shoulder. Are your "troops" still marching behind you?

That's...Leader Business.

No comments: