I was so impressed with this article by George Ambler, that I’m posting this link to the article, The everyday tasks of leadership.

Ambler talks about three major leadership tasks:

  • Setting direction (mission, vision, values)
  • Building commitment (trust, accountability, cooperation)
  • Creating alignment (common ground, shared responsibility)

Are there others that he left out?  Do all the significant leadership tasks fit into these three themes?  Please share you comments on this blog, and let’s make this a fruitful discussion.

On crafting a vision statement

September 10, 2010

So often I find myself writing to a client, or to group that I’m working with, and find that I’ve really written a short essay that deserves broader readership. That happened this morning, when a coaching client, director of a non-profit social service organization, wrote to me:

I really want to work on “the vision thing”.  But if I can’t articulate a vision for [our organization], I don’t know how I can get the staff or the Board to buy in.

I told him that this conclusion certainly didn’t follow for me, and then offered the following explanation:

Even if you don’t have a comprehensive and clear vision, you might understand the need for one, and might have in mind the outlines of a process that can move towards a vision.  In fact, if you had a very precise vision, that could become a problem itself, as you might be coming into the process without enough openness to what arises in the organization.

How is a “vision” formed?  I believe that it typically reflects several things (which I’m not listing in any particular order):

  • The character of your organization.  If you’re spiritually based, that faith might be central.  Whatever values and beliefs characterize the organization will figure strongly into the vision.
  • The needs of your community.  Your focus is on service, and a sense of the needs around you will help guide your vision of what needs to be done.
  • The capabilities of your organization, and of your staff.  Your organization is not a job training school, not a hospital or clinic, but a cluster of very specific constructive programs.  Those are clearly the starting point, and the ultimate vision will probably have something in common with them.
  • An understanding of social and economic change.  Energy and health care are dominant issues today, but were not so visible even a decade ago.  Connectivity via the internet, electronic privacy, and other new concerns are coming to the forefront.  An assessment of how they might impact your target populations will guide your visioning process.
  • Your current organizational governance community.  A vision that will guide you needs to be something that most, if not all, of your Board members and staff can in some way embrace.  That may require some education and work, but a vision that is too far from what these people can embrace will not be a vision that can actively guide your organization.

What’s the process?  I’d suggest that it begin by reviewing and updating this list, then taking account of which factors in each item are most significant.  There may, for example, be many changes in society that don’t and perhaps won’t impact your role in the community, and your program.  Then, you’ll need a process to review these, and put together a draft list of key points … which might get refined into a more polished statement.

Your role is not to articulate the conclusion, but to motivate people to join in the process, to identify resources that can help you and you organization, to keep the process moving, and to connect the various groups that may be working independently (or at cross purposes).

Exceptional Leaders

January 28, 2010

What are the behaviors of exceptional leaders?
What do exceptional leaders do?
What do exceptional leaders say?

Exceptional leaders . . .

  • Have lots of integrity.  They can be trusted to hear difficult points of view, to speak the truth, to take responsiblity for their actions and words.
  • Ask probing questions.  They want to really know what is happening, and why, and seek out people who can provide solid answers to their questions.  They are not afraid to admit their ignorance.
  • Speak and write clearly.  They know that their words will have a strong impact, and they insure that these words have the right impact.
  • Trust the people they are leading — most of the time.  They have a sense of when that trust might not be fully deserved, and work to instill values of trust, integrity, and cooperation.
  • Can stay focused on the big picture most of the time, and are not overwhelmed with the details required to carry out policies.  They can delegate tasks effectively and completely.
  • Have clear goals — for themselves, and for their organization.  And they can articulate these goals as a clear vision that can guide the work of everybody in the organization.
  • Have a passion and energy that inspires all those around them.
  • Regularly affirm the contributions of others in the organization.  While they will take credit for bringing in the right people, and motivating them effectively, they recognize that any final product or result is a team effort
  • Have strong interests and involvement in a various endeavors.  They are nurtured by their involvements in the arts, and by their work with community, religious, and civic groups.