In the leadership leverage machine, your input strength is nothing less than your leadership ability. You get more power into your lever by becoming a stronger leader. Today’s simpler information exchange, better communications, and increased mobility have changed the meaning of “leader.” Here’s how you can take advantage of the recent reset in business attitudes:
1. Accept that the dictatorial days are over. The most effective leaders no longer just hand down pronouncements from on high; they act as partners with the front-line workers responsible for execution.
2. Delegate your authority widely. You can’t keep up with everything in your field, especially if you’re not on the front line making it happen daily. You’re better off delegating your authority as effectively and as widely as possible, encouraging creativity and risk-taking on the part of individual team members—allowing them to transform the organization from within.
3. Work for your team. In a sense, you work for your team, just as much as they work for you. You’re the facilitator, the visionary, and cheerleader everyone looks to for encouragement to do what needs to be done to move forward quickly. You’re the rallying point, a catalyst triggering ideas and action, allowing people to succeed without getting in their way.
4. Speed up your execution process. In most modern industries, any strategy more than a few months old is outdated. An executive team can no longer make decisions years in advance and expect them to survive exposure to reality. As we recover from the Great Recession, it’s no longer possible to survive without being lean, mean, and fast. Otherwise, you risk eating the competition’s dust.
5. Give your team members the freedom to do their jobs. As the leader, shape the overall vision for your team, communicate and agree on tactics, and let your team take it from there. Don’t adopt a purely hands-off approach; so-called “Management by Exception” fails on too many levels. But don’t micromanage either. Let your team apply their past experience to the situation, combining it imaginatively to create innovative new approaches.
Trust your team to tell you what they need to do to achieve your vision, and then get out of their way. That’s where true leadership lies—not in straitjacketing people with inflexible rules and hidebound strategies. A looser approach sets you up for the next step in maximizing the productivity of your leverage machine.