Lost without leadership
Updated: May 7, 2018
It was 6 a.m. on a Monday morning and the instructor for the spin class didn't show up. Lost without leadership, half a dozen women and a sprinkling of middle aged men were sitting on their bikes pedaling aimlessly. Disappointed that there was not going to be a fitness class, I considered what I should be doing for the next hour to burn off some of the extra weight I had accumulated over the winter. Suddenly one of the women suggested that we run a spin class anyway. Who would like to lead the session?
What happened that morning is indicative of what happens when we fail to provide leadership in our businesses. Let me explain. Last week I was having a strategy session with a business owner in Ontario who was concerned because her sales were sliding. Because of this, she felt paralyzed. She told me that she was having trouble making decisions, that her staff were looking to her for direction but she wasn't sure what to do next, and so she was unable to tell them what needed to be done. Because no one was in charge, one of her key employees made a decision to start a project that was costly and didn't contribute to driving revenue in the company. The owner felt incapable bringing the project to a close. The company was drifting aimlessly in a downward spiral.
Her company was lost without her leadership.
Without good leadership, organizations struggle to fulfill their basic premises of their existence. Employees often do what they think is best but without the guidance of clear direction, the targets are often missed. Leaders who fail to step up and create an environment where there is clarity of purpose and a specific process to achieve that purpose are negligent in their duties. This often leads to dysfunction, drama, complacency, and unprofitably.
So what makes good leadership and what do leaders do if they are unable to contribute to the success of the company?
Good leadership is complex to define, in the sense that every great organization needs something slightly different in terms of leadership within its organizational culture. However, there are three things that great leaders provide.
1. Vision - Clarity about where the organization is going. This doesn't always come directly from the leader but leadership entails providing the structure where the company can define its direction and come up with strategies that will work to improve the organization.
2. Decision Making - Again great leaders don't make all the decisions but having the "buck stops here" mentality means that leaders need to have the backbone to stand behind choices made by the management team that are aimed at getting results.
3. Communication - Good leaders need to be able to communicate or have a process to do so. They need to understand themselves and be able to relate to the people on their team in order to persuade and influence them.
Failure is guaranteed without the ability to form a vision, make decisions, and communicate those decisions to their people. Mediocrity and disappointment are the inevitable results of poor leadership.
When there were no volunteers, Lana, with the help of Carol, stepped up and took leadership of our spin class. For the next 50 minutes under the direction of our new leaders, I had the best workout of the winter and walked away from the bikes with my shirt soaking in sweat and ready to face the day.
My client too stepped up. Taking back her control of the company not only relieved her stress levels but gave her hope that she could turn the business around.