In part one of our “creating a culture” series, we are going to dive into one of the most important aspects of defining who you are as an organization which is your leadership. There are many different ways to be a leader, but a few characteristics stand out as necessary regardless of who you are. In this article, we will take a closer look at what those characteristics are and how they can be applied to your organization.
Leadership is such a hot-button topic these days. Everyone wants to know the best methods to lead. Are leaders born or can they be developed? One size fits all or are there different methods that work in various environments? There are plenty of questions out there, so I wanted to dive into the subject and give some answers based off of my experience in the professional sports industry.
Integrity is key.
The people tasked with making the major decisions within an organization are the ones that can have the biggest impact. How you make an impact as a leader will decide which direction the ship moves in. Are you a leader who develops an environment of innovation, honesty, and empowerment; or do you lead by fear, gaslighting, and hinderance?
Having strong moral principles is vital to driving success. Without them, the people within your organization don’t have any real standards of operation to use for performance. A 2016 study showed that workers ranked integrity as the most important attribute for a leader. As a leader, you have to be able to listen to those within your organization. They ultimately don’t make the final decisions, but their input can be vital for creating an inclusive workspace.
Leaders have to ask themselves a few important questions in order to foster these environments. What are the core values of this organization? What is our mission? How do we get everyone on board? But don’t be mistaken, leadership isn’t just about developing a catchy mission statement or buzzworthy core values; it’s about living into your mission and values every single day. This is where a lot of organizations fumble the bag.
Performative actions are too often the driving forces of organizations. Being reactive instead of proactive. Responding to trends that result in a spike in sales. It can be great for business but does very little to develop an actual culture for your organization. Being reactionary leads to volatility and turnover. Long-term success depends on the foundation that was built and is constantly being evolved.
People first, everything else second.
Successful organizations are defined by the people within it. We aren’t just talking about the executives. The majority of the people, doing a large portion of the work, won’t have executive level titles. Effective leaders understand they are only as good as the people they surround themselves with. Talent acquisition and retention is one of the most important aspects of leadership.
Leaders have influence and that influence impacts the people around them. How do you use your influence? Do you use it to dictate to your employees or do you promote collaboration? Earlier, we discussed the importance of having a mission and core values. How are those defined? A leader who develops those on their own is essentially creating an organization based off of their own beliefs. Including your employees in the development of important aspects like the mission statement, goals, values, and strategy can be the starting point in producing the environment you want.
It’s all a balancing act. Balancing what is best for the employees with the profitability of the company. Juggling transparency with oversharing. Leveling the playing field versus maintaining the status quo. How do you empower your employees without giving them too much control? With great titles come great responsibilities.
You can make business decisions in the game, or you can make the right decisions. Sometimes they line up, sometimes not. — Former NWSL GM, Alyse LaHue
Too often, these decisions are colored by fear. The fear of losing power. The fear of losing money. The fear of losing employees. Trust has to be at the basis of leadership or else you risk losing it all. Your title. Your working environment. Your entire organization.
Not every decision you make it going to reap the rewards of increasing sales or improving your bottom line. Some decisions have to be human decisions that are made because they are the best decision for the people in your organization. This can be a one-off decision to give someone a raise or a long-term decision to increase PTO days. If you want to create a positive culture that lasts, you have to do it with the people within your organization at the forefront.
Bear the burden.
Being tasked with leading an organization is an incredible responsibility. But one that comes with a fair share of ups and downs. You are the person that people praise when things are going well. You are also the person people come to when there are issues with the business. Effective leaders are honest, empathetic, and emotionally intelligent enough to handle a variety of situations that will be thrown at them.
As the leader, you have to be willing to take responsibility for the mistakes of others. The buck stops with you. This is the environment that you created. An environment of innovation and creativity and hopefully some level of autonomy for your employees. Within that environment, there are going to be mistakes and problems that arise. You have to be willing to address them and bear the burden of authority or risk losing the respect and trust of those around you.
Plenty of people can lead when things are going well. An effective leader steers the ship when the waters are choppy. They can do so while also maintaining the integrity that brought them the status of leadership. Not everyone was built for the role. Identifying who can lead and who can follow is essential for organizational success. Define roles and master them. Celebrate success, no matter how small. Create an environment that truly allows for everyone to thrive.
This is the first of my three-part series on “creating a culture” within an organization. You can learn more about the mind behind the writing or and more of my thoughts on leadership HERE. The next installment of the series will cover how you utilize your leadership skills to define your organization’s mission. Stay tuned!