The Job of a Leader

The Job of a Leader

Years ago, I decided that the way I could serve organizations best was by helping them communicate better. Let me list some of the experiences that led me to this conclusion.

  • I discovered that after sitting with the average CEO for an hour or two, I often understood what he wanted from his employees better than his employees did.
  • I once sat with U.S. troops on the frontlines in Iraq who did not know whether they were supposed to advance on the enemy and had no idea of the ROE (Rules of Engagement) if they did.
  • I talked to senior executives who were unaware of their own performance objectives and who had never set performance objectives for anyone else.
  • I consulted with an entertainment firm that was truly a joyful place to visit but in which not one person could tell me what the firm was trying to accomplish.
  • I worked with a government department that conducted no performance reviews, did not set performance goals for any employees, and had no means by which to measure departmental success.

Here is what I’ve learned from experiences like these and a thousand others. Leaders are often clear in their own minds about what they want their firms to achieve but they seldom communicate this vision in clear and measurable ways. As a result, employees and leadership teams are often adrift in a sea of visionary verbiage that leaves them frustrated and ineffective.

Hear me. It is the job of a leader to translate vision into performable, measurable, objectives. It is the job of leaders to communicate these measurable performance goals to each employee. It is the job of leaders to make sure each employee knows how his or her performance goals fit into the vision for the entire firm.

You see, most people want to work hard and perform well. In fact, most people love achieving goals. The leader’s job is to harness this passion for performance to his firm’s purpose. This means a leader must:

  • Define Purpose
  • Set Vision
  • Establish performance goals for a given period
  • Apportion responsibility for these goals
  • Monitor and fine tune for success
  • Reward performance lavishly
  • Repeat

This is how you produce a culture: when the leader’s vision is communicated clearly and progress toward that vision is made understandable, measurable, and achievable. This is what gives you “celebratable” success.

WARNING: The more relational a leader is, the less clear he usually is about specific vision and goals. The more verbal a leader is, the less clear he usually is in general. The higher a leader’s IQ, the greater the gap between what is in her mind and what her team understands of her intentions.

To communicate well, you have to think from the vantage point of your listener. Think about your team, your employees. Break down your vision into component parts. Identify specific steps your team will be able to master. Make assignments wisely. Set measureable performance goals. Fine tune as necessary. Encourage along the way. Celebrate like crazy when goals are achieved. Then, repeat. This is called progress.

Stephen