When times are tough, people want to see their leaders act. Bold statements make headlines but actions provoke results. If an action is to be sustained, it must be reinforced by what followers do. In my new book, Lead By Example, 50 Ways Great Leaders Inspire Results, I discuss some of the ways leaders act for the benefit of the organization.
Manage by inclusion. It’s human nature to seek input from people we know best. Leaders are no different, but they have an obligation to seek out alternative points of view. Failure to do so leads to unilateral thinking, that is, everyone adopting the same point of view. That may be good for cheerleading squads, but it gets organizations into trouble. One way to avoid this trap is to make certain that people feel free (as well as safe) to voice opinions contrary to prevailing thought. That will only happen if the leader goes out of her way to seek alternate approaches.
Delegate for results. Pre-schoolers don’t mind being shown how to do something once or twice, but pretty soon they want to do it themselves. The same goes for those you lead. Give people directions but never tell them how to do something. Let them figure it out for themselves. Nowhere does this apply more than in setting goals. As a colleague of mine says, “Delegate for results, not tasks.” That is, tell people what needs to be done, but do not give them a to-do list.
Make a decision. If leaders truly are to propel the action, they must make decisions. Consultation with others, as discussed, is vital, and so too is deliberation. But sooner than later someone needs to pull the trigger when it comes to big decisions. Acting deliberately and decisively is essential to achieving intended results.
Another aspect of action is a leader’s behavior. How a person leads is often as important as what a leader does. The way a leader communicates, delegates, supervises and recognizes matters. People are not inclined to follow someone who is simply going through the motions; they want a leader who thinks about the impact of his decisions on others. This is especially true in times of crisis. Leaders accomplish little by themselves; they need the actions of others to succeed.