Miguel Figueiredo | The 5 building blocks without which, any leader is doomed to fail
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The 5 building blocks without which, any leader is doomed to fail

  |   Leadership   |   No comment

I give it to you that “doomed to fail” is a bit over the top, but I kid you not when I say I’m not using it lightly. Before we go into it, let’s establish some background.

If you took a management course, most likely you talked about leadership and its different styles. Maybe you have even discussed where each style tends to be more effective in what kind of organization, period in lifecycle, or marketplace. In practice, the style you adopt, depending on your own personality, can become more or less powerful.

So perhaps you have adopted the style which fits you best and throughout the years you have honed it and made it your own.

However, many people don’t realize that having your own personal style does not free you up from putting in place a necessary set of building blocks. Without these, your team demotivation, and consequently lack of performance, is guaranteed.

What are these building blocks?

1 – An environment based on trust

People want to be good. They want to excel. And they want to be recognized for it. Having someone else’s trust, namely from the leader, is the most shining proof of that recognition. It also puts them under pressure to live up to that trust. Saying “ I trust you” to a member of your team and showing it by, for example sharing sensitive information like Mark Zuckerberg does, will actually turn people into trustworthy team members.

2 – Having a clear and compelling WHY

People work for money but they only excel for a higher and worthy purpose. And purpose comes from having an insightful and deserving answer to the question “Why you do what you do?”. So making sure that you have a clear vision for your team that is known, celebrated and frequently spoken of is absolutely key.

3 – Accountability for all

When everyone has a clear and quantitative idea of what is expected, they become responsible. Next, if you add status sessions and constant constructive feedback, the team becomes laser focused. And if, on top of that, you add freedom of choice and action, then they become accountable. It is from accountability that real, constant innovation and problem solving emerge. They become the two much needed engines for sustainable growth.

4 – Define and promote a specific set of values

Results come from action which in turn comes from desired behaviors. And people behave according to their company’s values. So, the stepping stone for success is setting up the right set of values within your team. If you don’t do so, you run the risk that everyone follows their own set of values or those they perceive to being in place. And they might not be the ones you were hoping for. So, from the start go, set a list of values, not many (ideally 5 – 7 tops), make it public among your team and start immediately penalizing the breaking of the rules so that you level the playing field. Note: It shouldn’t be a big deal to follow the core values (ex: we are not praised for not killing people), and therefore don’t reward behaviors that do conform.

5 – Lead by example

“Do what I say but not what I do” is the surest way to corrupt your team’s motivation. If there is some behavior that is important enough for you to ask them to follow, then you should be the first to set the example.  Want everyone to be on time for meetings? Be the first one to arrive, not the last. Want mobile phones off during meetings? Put yours aside and in airplane mode. Want people to accept and grow through constructive feedback? Be the first one to accept it and act on it.

There is extensive research about these issues and countless real life examples of leaders that failed or succeeded because they supported their leadership style, or not, with these critical building blocks.

And to show you how seriously their impact is on someone’s ability to lead, I’m going to do something that opinion makers often hate doing: I’m going to make a prediction. A prediction related to the most “under the spotlight” leader of our times – Donald Trump. My prediction is this: I am sure he will not make it to the end of is term. Why? because above all else, he has a total lack of respect for these 5 building blocks.

Check for yourself:

1 – Does he trust the people of his own country? The things he says about women, journalists, the opposition, etc. speak volumes to his lack of trust in his people.

2 – Does he have a clear and compelling WHY? Well, “make America Great Again” may be compelling but he certainly hasn’t made it clear. How can anyone know what to do if they don’t know what it means?

3 – Does he believe in accountability? His extremely low threshold for feedback says no. Plus, no one can verify performance if facts keep “alternating” to his whims.

4 – Does he endorse a specific set of values? Yes and no. His actions, for sure, fosters misogynic, racist and xenophobic hate but he his not crazy enough to turn those actions into a manifesto. So, with Trump there’s a big void of principles and morals.

5 – Does he lead by example? How can a man that lived in an ivory tower all his life lead by example? He is the living antithesis of leading by example.

So, Donald Trump stands in marked contrast to successful long term leadership. His compelling rhetoric for the frustrated and unhappy with life and politics may have brought him this far, but the lack of a behavior supported in the 5 building blocks will for sure ensure his rapid downfall.

What kind of leader are you? Do you follow this 5 building blocks? How about your boss? And how has that worked out for you? Please comment, as I’m keen to hear your story.

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