Yes YOU with the big office…
Who decides whether Jacinta is a good leader? It may come as a surprise, but it’s not Jacinta. Rather it’s the people Jacinta leads and influences. These people are clear that only three things matter, and charisma isn’t one of them! They need to see Jacinta add intellectual value (“she’s got a great mind and can see things we can’t”); they need to see her getting things done through other people (“she gets the best out of us”); and they need to see composure under pressure (“she’s calm when I’m not”). People have great confidence in this sort of leader.
It’s not that complicated!
We know good leadership makes a difference. People crave it, they’re critical when it’s absent, and they perform when it’s present. But we also know good leadership is rare; which begs the question…. Why?
Surprisingly, research reveals that the focus of good leadership is not that complicated. What’s difficult is the practice of leadership; getting leaders to stay with the few things that make a difference, becoming really good at this, and sticking to it over time. So we need a framework that has the capacity to develop and promote these sorts of leaders.
What do good leaders do?
Let’s explore more thoroughly what people want from Jacinta as their leader….
The first thing they want, and this is a surprise to many people who think leadership is all about inspiring others, is for Jacinta to add-value by using her mind….her intellect! This is not simply about her being smart.
Many leaders are clever, without adding much “intellectual value” to their organisation. Rather, Jacinta needs to be clear about what she needs to apply her mind to, in order to grow and sustain the business. She needs to personally face into the business challenges her organisation confronts.
Steve Jobs at Apple was on the lookout for people like this; people who used their minds to solve relevant business problems, related to the present and the future. In the process they added value over and beyond simply leading and managing people. People don’t rate leaders who drop the ball on this issue. It may come as a surprise to modern “people leaders”, but if we ask the people being led, they want more than inspiration.
The second thing they want is for Jacinta to get things done through others… in other words, through them! They don’t want her to just keep them engaged, but to get the best out of them, intellectually as well as emotionally, for their own good and the good of the organisation. So Jacinta needs to ensure her people are not only engaged, but engaged around what’s important to the business; to be solving the right problems in the right way. She needs to motivate and mobilise people to deliver on what the business needs from them.
The key to this is influence and focus; Jacinta needs to stay away from telling people what to do (it’s not a dictatorship), but nor can she abdicate this influence and hope for the best. It’s not enough for Jacinta to decide she’s managing smart people who can look after themselves. She has to align the focus and outputs of her people with what the organisation needs from them. If she’s good, she won’t shy away from this challenge; she won’t retreat to just focusing on her own work. She’ll have the alignment conversations, and keep having them.
Composed under pressure
And finally, they want Jacinta to remain calm under pressure. Great leaders have composure, which sets them apart from others. The tougher the challenges, the calmer they seem to become. They’re stable across different situations, giving others confidence. People want this from their leaders and they want this from Jacinta!
When the pressure is on, people become more anxious. They don’t necessarily say that, but they feel it; they can become defensive, stressed, worried, aggressive, or avoidant. Everyone looks to Jacinta, to see how she’s acting and reacting, and they take their cue from her. If she looks like she’s dealing with everything, everyone gains confidence. In the process Jacinta creates loyal fans… people who will walk on hot coals to deliver what she wants… because they like being around her; they like being led by her.