We all want to be successful as leaders of our business and in the organizations we belong to.
But, what is a leader? Are you a leader? How can you know for sure?
We are often enamoured with the concept of being a leader. And, that’s just the thing, it’s the concept that we are infatuated with. Most people are not willing to do the work to be a leader. We don’t necessarily want to deal with accountability, responsibility, communication and what may seem like more and more work.
So, how can you be effective as a leader so that you work less and less, while your organization produces more and more?
In this article we will define what it means to be a leader in a simple, practical sense so that it can be tested in reality. To enhance the reading of this article you can also refer to the book Tribal Leadership, by Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fischer-Wright.
First of all, let us start with a workable definition for a leader, that we can agree upon.
A leader, according to the executive team at RSC Business Group, is “someone who follows a vision and the destination it speaks of, while guiding those who follow him or her towards that destination.”
This means, that without a vision there is no possibility of a leader, and without followers, a leader cannot exist. Simply put, to be a leader requires followers.
So, take a look from your current situation. Do you have a vision? What is it? Is it written down and articulated clearly? Are you following your vision daily? Are other people following the vision to the final destination it speaks of?
If you answered “Yes” to all these questions, you are a leader. You deserve to congratulate yourself, and as you already know, there is work to be done. Naturally, this is not more work for you – it is work for your organization – and as you already know, the amount of work will depend on the size of your vision.
However, if you did not answer “Yes” to all of those questions, let us explore what a leader is further.
The first question to ask yourself is “How big do you really want to go?” Most often, the people I speak to say, “I want to go as big as possible!” “The sky’s the limit!” and, almost immediately, what they confront is the fact that as a lone individual it is a ton of hard work to fulfill their vision. As silly as it sounds, the initial notion we have is that we are going to fulfill the vision alone, or with limited support. Obviously, this does not work when your vision requires more than you to fulfill it. Ask yourself, how many people will it take to realise your vision? Five? Twenty? Hundreds? Or more? As you can tell the fulfillment of a vision is fully dependent on the amount of people required to participate in its fulfillment. Thus, the leader’s challenge, from day one, is building effective relationships with people and becoming a master in organizational development.
Said in another way, “It is individuals that can make a difference by sharing their vision, but only organizations can fulfill the task of realising the vision of the individual.” And, along the way to fulfilling your vision it will be your tribe (a group of 20 – 150 people), that will reach the objectives required for the fulfillment of the vision.
In business, individuals score points, tribes reach objectives and organizations realise visions.
And, here is where the model of Tribal Leadership can shed some light on being a leader.
The book Tribal Leadership speaks of five distinct tribal stages based on the language people use. The language itself, the words that people say, is an indication of the stage people are people’s behaviour and how they relate to others. The five stages can be summarised as follows:
Stage 1 = Life Sucks
Stage 2 = My Life Sucks
Stage 3 = I’m Great (And You’re Not)
Stage 4 = We’re Great (And They’re Not)
Stage 5 = Life is Great
To briefly describe the stages, let’s start with Stage 1. Here, people live from the point of view that life is hopeless, tough and there is nothing that can be done to improve it. People exist in gangs, prisons and do illegal activities. Stage 2 is a quantum leap from Stage 1 as people move to saying that their life sucks, as opposed to saying that everything in life sucks. Here, people are the victims of their circumstances. As we move to Stage 3, we get to the high-performing individuals. The mantra here is “I am great, and you are not!”This is where most professionals and workplace cultures exist. At this stage, a person is on a quest to prove to the world how great they are, while complaining that there isn’t enough time, other people are not reliable to produce results, and they they must to everything if they want anything to be done right.
The book proposes that the act of being a tribal leader begins at Stage 4. The key idea to get is that the shift from Stage 3 language to Stage 4 language is from “I” to “We.” Unfortunately, less than one fifth of business cultures exist at this level and, only a small fraction exist at Stage 5. The result of this is that, comparatively speaking, very few people have been exposed to “We’re Great” and “Life is Great” types of organizational cultures.
So what can you do?
The first thing to get is that going through the stages is a process. It does not happen overnight and by surrounding yourself with the proper support structures you can get there. The book describes these in detail, and we recommend that you familiarise yourself with the key leverage points.
From here the questions you should ask yourself are:
What stage are you and your organization, in their development? How can you be the leader you have always wanted to be?
We propose these initial steps:
For further information, there is a free download of the Tribal Leadership audio-book here: http://www.zappos.com/tribal.zhtml
Short video that explains the book here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2h954Hz2Rk