aergon-TransformationPerspectives-05Transformation Perspectives Series 06

Leadership Part 1: Do you have a clear understanding of your leadership impact, and what levers can you use to increase this impact?

 

In the previous articles we looked at how sharpening our purpose and focusing more consciously on values can create added value for a company. Having recognized this added value, the next logical step is to ask: how can I support this through leadership – or alternatively, how does this fit with my personal understanding of leadership? Is it part of a manager's job to develop values and foster a sense of purpose? Current popular leadership theories, such as transformational leadership and mindful leadership, refer explicitly to these issues, in the aim of identifying “better” leadership styles.

However, we can also ask ourselves: where/on what level does leadership actually have an impact, and what are the factors? And what are the leadership needs of the employees and the company? Following on, this enables us to look at whether, as leaders, we are able to meet these needs and harness these opportunities in suitable breadth, and what we can do consciously to improve things. 

Currently, promotions are largely awarded based on the candidate’s professional competence. This makes sense for a lot of reasons, not least because competence can be assessed more objectively, which appears to enable a fairer promotions process. Equally, my own concrete professional actions and decisions constitute a first essential factor in determining what impact I have as a manager. If I am leading the company in the wrong direction and if my output does not meet the quality requirements, this will be detrimental both to the company’s performance and to my managerial authority as viewed by the employees.

As a second factor, which is almost a defining component of the very concept of leadership, let us look at how employees interact with their work. Am I giving clear instructions? Am I monitoring the results? Am I giving my employees support when they need it? This pragmatic, operative view of getting tasks done is popularly summarized under the term “management”; the focus is clearly on how to organize tasks. However, we can also adopt a different perspective on how employees interact with their work by placing the management focus on their motivation, inspiration and independence. This approach is currently associated with the term “leadership”. Without entering into the question of which aspect is more important to focus on, it is evident that both approaches are necessary in order to provide employees with both direction and a sense of purpose in their work.

Of course there are other interactions as well. For one, there is the direct relationship between manager and employee. What is the nature of this relationship? Is it authoritarian? Directive? Participative? Is there esteem? Support and encouragement? To what extent do I consciously develop my relationship with my employees, and to what end? Am I aware of their individual needs and skills, and do I manage, challenge and develop them accordingly? Then there are the relationships between the employees themselves, which ultimately determines the team culture. Are there certain behaviors that prompt me to intervene decisively? Am I aware of conflicts that arise between employees? Do I consider interacting with the team to be a part of my management responsibilities? We call this third level of impact “individual and team development”. Under the catchphrase “the manager as coach”, over the last few years there has been an upswell of support for the approach of providing targeted development to individual employees. Notwithstanding the question of whether relationship management forms part of a manager’s responsibilities, it seems obvious that, whether consciously or unconsciously, managers have a great deal of influence on this level; accordingly, this offers managers broad scope for acting and shaping.

Lastly, the impact of a manager’s personal presence has recently been the topic of intensive debate. The impact of a manager’s personality and self-presentation is being studied under terms such as “mindful”, “authentic” and “charismatic” leadership, as well as questions relating to integrity and maturity being raisesd. From a manager’s perspective, this is an invitation to engage with the question of self-reflection and awareness of one’s own personal impact. Do I have clear and carefully reflected personal values which I am prepared to stand by consistently? Do I come across as a mature person of senior standing, or do people see me as naive? As a manager, you are often under the spotlight – accordingly, your personal presence has a big impact, particularly with regard to leadership issues such as authority, loyalty, inspiration and acting as a role model.

 

Image: Management model with four key dimensions

 

 

  

Let us take a look at these four dimensions in their entirety. You will see that they represent the different levels on which your leadership has an impact, thus creating a roadmap of your personal leadership potential. Do I have clear leadership aspirations in all dimensions, do I have a broad corresponding skill set, and are my management objectives aligned accordingly? Either I make specific use of my area of influence on these levels, or I leave my potential untapped. And this is not about aiming for an ideal leadership style, but having versatility and depth in my leadership behavior. Additionally, from this perspective, it is clear that my focus on values forms a part of my personal presence, as well as my relationship and team-building role; it is also clear that a focus which promotes a sense of purpose directly improves the employees’ perception of that purpose.  I always have influence on these levels – the question is, what sort of influence.

In the next article we will look at how exactly we can extend our versatility and depth on the individual levels of impact, and what frameworks we can use to support this.

 

Pierre Bachmann and Dr. Thomas Gartenmann

This is part of the Transformation Perspectives Series by www.aergon.com