As leaders, the level of our success is wholly dependent on the quality of our followers. I say level because you can be successful even with disengaged employees. You will, however, not achieve the purest definition of leadership, and will never evolve past the title of leader. That's because there is a massive difference between being a leader and engaging in leadership. Many of us are leaders; few of us engage in effective leadership. This reality is the cold, hard truth I had to confront while trying to plan and navigate my future path. If you want to be a better leader; find better followers; and if you're going to engage in tremendous leadership, be intentional about developing exemplary followers.
There are two questions every organization should repeatedly be asking. These questions are diagnostic in nature, like a doctor assessing the health of a patient. The first question is for those in positions of leadership: Who is your ideal employee? What traits, skills, and characteristics do they exhibit? The second question is for your employees: Who is your perfect leader? What qualities, skills, and attributes do they present?
The two must be linked. What you offer as an employee and what the organization needs must be congruent. What you need as a leader and what your team members can deliver must also be congruent. If it's not, you're wasting precious time and money, and you're not engaging in leadership.
There’s a term in leadership literature and research called Organizational Citizenship Behaviors (OCB). OCBs are defined as an individual’s voluntary commitment within an organization or company that is not part of his or her contractual tasks. Showing up to work on time or doing what you’re paid to do doesn’t qualify. OCBs are all about commitment, not compliance.
I hear a great deal about culture, and it seems to be this elusive wild animal that may be kind or may tear up your organization. I think it gets blamed or praised for a whole lot of the success and failures business owners and entrepreneurs experience. Individuals are what constitutes a culture. Each is responsible for the energy and behaviors he or she brings into the workplace. Each employee must continually ask themselves, "Am I here to make a difference for the organization or am I here to make a difference for myself?"
Leadership is about collecting the highest level of abilities, motivations, and resources to complete the desired and required tasks of running and growing an organization. If every individual, to include the leader, does not consistently bring their A-game to the table, you can see how the highest level begins to quickly atrophy. Others must pick up the slack. Non-compliant behaviors or toxic attitudes become the norm. It’s a slippery slope to becoming a non-competitive entity. You see companies and corporations are more than cash cows to be milked. They are a collective, just like a church, school, or family. Just like in marriage you can be unequally yoked, in business you can be unequally choked. It takes communication, dedication, and respect; because leadership is all about people.
My father always told me, "Tracey, if you want a better job do a better job, and you'll have a better job." That's a tremendous truth you can bank on.