Why do leaders exist? This is perhaps one of the most simple yet profound questions we can ask about leadership. Oddly, I am not sure I have ever heard anyone address it specifically.
But until we answer this foundational question, leadership tips and techniques won’t make much sense.
My answer to the question is this: Leaders exist to create a shift in reality.
Without leaders, things drift along. They go where they want to go, following the path of least resistance. However, when this is not desirable—or acceptable—you hire, elect, appoint or become a leader. The leader’s job is to overcome resistance and make things flow in a different direction. His or her job is to create a different reality.
So how do you create a shift in the status quo?
- Identify what needs to change. This is commonly called the situation analysis. What is unacceptable about your current environment? What frustrates you? What disappoints you? What needs to change?
- Determine the outcome you are after. This is what is commonly called vision. Getting clear on the what is more important than understanding how you are going to get there. What do you want to create in the place of the status quo?
- Decide how you will achieve your outcome. This is what is commonly called strategy. There are numerous ways to get to the same destination. Good leaders pick the one that will produce the results they are after in the most economical way.
- Create an action plan. It is not enough to determine your vision and decide on a strategy, you must carefully craft an action plan with specific milestones and due dates. You have to be able to chart your progress.
As you go through this process, you must enroll your team. This is the mark of great leaders. If you don’t do this, you can expect resistance. And, it’s not because your people are rebellious, lazy, or stupid. It’s because you didn’t do your job as a leader.
With a clear plan, and an aligned team, you can move mountains.