L.E.A.D. - D IS FOR DEVELOP

Let’s get one thing straight: Being a leader is not the same thing as being the boss.

 

There are plenty of people sitting in the top strata of their corporate org chart who are lousy leaders. By sheer force of their position in the company food chain, they get people to do what they want.

 

That is not the same as leading.

 

Unfortunately, many people in positions of leadership don’t actually know what a leader is supposed to do. In their ignorance they resort to common authoritarian activities like throwing their weight around, barking orders and issuing ultimatums. All of this is done to protect their carefully protected status as “the boss.”

 

At best, it is leadership by intimidation, not influence.

 

There is a better way to lead.  A way that yields much greater results personally and professionally for both you and your employees.

 

As I have endeavored to explain throughout this series of articles, a leader must focus on a different type of work than the members of his team…for the good of the team.

 

This work involves four essential practices. So far we have looked at the leader’s responsibility to love, empower and align the members of his team. The fourth practice of an effective leader is the focus of this final article.

 

An effective leader must DEVELOP the members of his team.

 

Every team can get better at what they do. (Teams that think otherwise are already doomed!) The pace of an ever-changing marketplace demands that companies understand they are either acquiring new skills or they are losing the race. The corporate competition will run over any company that grows complacent about developing new ways to think and act.

 

The leader who spends time and money on developing the skills of his staff is making one of the best investments possible for the good of his organization. It’s your smartest R&D move every time.

 

A wise leader is constantly on the lookout for resources that he can use to develop the people on his team. Workshops, books, articles, videos, blogs, subject matter experts, site visits and training experiences are just a few of the many ways a leader can expand the bandwidth of his team’s performance.

 

For instance, every company can get better in the area of customer service. Seize every chance possible to learn more about serving customers from companies that are doing it well.

 

High-profile hotels, restaurants, and retailers that offer outstanding customer service can teach you a lot about how to serve your customers. Go visit them and experience what they do so well. Order merchandise you don’t even need from them (and return it) just to be a part of their customer-service experience. Host their managers or staff for lunch and dialogue about their service philosophy, stated goals, and specific practices.

 

If what your team needs is better designs for your products, then find a few companies that are industry leaders in the area of design.

 

In his biography of Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson describes how Jobs and Apple’s lead designer, Jonathan Ive, regularly discussed their observations and experiences with the design of all kinds of products, not just mobile technology. They’d spend hours in showrooms handling everything from appliances to cutlery in an attempt to better understand what made certain items more appealing to customers.  Their impressions of weight, texture, function and appearance had a profound influence on the designs of the iPod, the iMac, and the iPhone.

 

If your team’s greatest need is better communication or greater synergy, bookshelves are full of information about these important expressions of teamwork. An entire industry has grown up around providing teams intensive training experiences in the fundamentals of teamwork such as trust, communication, risk-taking and problem solving.

 

Whatever skill is lacking in your team’s repertoire, it is the leader’s responsibility to help them become more proficient in that particular area.

 

Most teams need additional development in one of three categories.

 

{C}1.  Partnership. This is about teamwork.  High performance teams thrive in a strong sense of unity and synergy among each other. Inevitably, poor communication and insensitive behavior will threaten a team’s camaraderie. Any training in the area of relational intelligence is going to be a gift to your team.

 

{C}2.  Performance. Beyond the relational dynamics of teamwork, there is the execution side of the equation. Helping your team identify and rectify areas where they could be more efficient and effective is wise.

 

{C}3.  Productivity. Whereas performance is about execution, productivity is about output. Developing better ways to produce more widgets not only feeds the bottom line, but it also brings your team a tremendous sense of fulfillment.

 

A leader must attend to the unique work that nobody else on the team is going to do while they are busy doing their jobs. This is why a leader and his leadership are so vital to the success of any organization.

 

The work of an effective leader is to love the members of his team, to empower them to act wisely on behalf of the organization, to align each team member around the important commitments of the organization’s culture, and to develop them into one the best teams possible.

 

L = Love.

E = Empower.

A = Align.

D = Develop.

 

Leaders L.E.A.D.