By MG (Ret.) John Gronski
How do you define leadership?
A definition of leadership I learned while serving in the Army was, “leaders influence their followers to achieve objectives and goals by providing purpose, direction, and motivation.” I think this definition holds true for any organization in any sector.
The Big Four
Along with practicing the art and science of influencing others, leaders are also responsible for developing four elements that I call the Big Four of Organizational Effectiveness. Leaders must develop Trust, Respect, Initiative, and Resilience.
The Big Four are crucial for any organization, whether it be a sports team, business, non-profit, military unit, or family. These elements do not simply develop on their own. A leader must take deliberate steps to develop these four elements that establish an organizational culture.
I have found that the best practices for cultivating trust in an organization include:
1) Trust those you lead first before you can expect them to trust you.
2) Provide a vision and a path forward that people throughout the organization can orient on. The vision must include a purpose that people believe in.
3) Display integrity. Demonstrate high ethical standards and moral conduct. Do not make promises that you cannot keep. Use your position to propel the organization forward rather than yourself.
4) Lead by example. Share difficulties and risks. Shoulder the load along with your followers and adhere to the same standards you expect your followers to adhere to.
5) Care. Simply show your followers that you care about them. Do this by getting to know them. Provide resources and remove obstacles so they can do their job. Place the welfare of your followers ahead of your own.
Leaders must earn respect. It is not simply given. The best way to earn respect is to treat those you lead with dignity and respect. Respect is one of those things that is earned by giving it to others. You also earn respect by displaying strong character and by demonstrating competence in your job as a leader.
Treating those you lead with dignity and respect does not mean you don’t hold others to the standards expected of them. You can provide performance counseling in a dignified and respectful way, and you can even fire someone with dignity and respect.
Initiative is extremely important in today’s environment, especially when things are fast-paced, and people are working more and more in a distributed manner. We must create an environment where those we lead feel empowered to make decisions and take action.
There are several ways leaders can create an environment whereby followers feel safe demonstrating initiative. First, followers must understand the leader’s intent that emphasizes the results to be attained rather than how to achieve those results. General Patton said many years ago, “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”
Secondly, leaders must recognize and reward people when they demonstrate initiative. Their initiative should be held up as the exemplary way to perform so others will understand the importance of acting the same way.
Third, leaders must always be coaching and developing future leaders, by explaining to followers both in groups and one-on-one what worked and what needs to be improved regarding actions that were taken. When leaders take the time to coach and develop others, followers will better understand the leader’s intent.
Just as individuals must develop resilience, organizations must develop resilience too. The leader must take on the mantle of helping followers and the organization develop resilience. Leaders do this by insisting it is okay to move out of one’s comfort zone and try new ways of doing things. Embracing inclusiveness and diversity develops resilience in that people from diverse backgrounds see things differently and can better come up with a variety of innovative solutions to challenges.
Encouraging people in the organization to improve physically emotionally, mentally, and spiritually goes a long way to strengthening organizational resilience. Leaders must also share stories of challenges the organization has overcome in the past or stories that illustrate the success the organization has experienced. These stories go a long way to provide teachable perspectives and inspiring anecdotes that will help the organization continue to power through tough times and achieve successful outcomes.
So, how do you define leadership? Keep in mind the Big Four for Organizational Effectiveness. Trust, respect, initiative, and resilience add up to great leadership, no matter what definition you use.
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About John Gronski
Major General John L. Gronski (U.S. Army Retired) is the founder and CEO of Leader Grove LLC, a leadership consulting firm. John is the author of two books, Iron-Sharpened Leadership and The Ride of Our Lives and he is an international and Fortune 500 speaker.
A decorated combat Veteran, infantryman, and Ranger School graduate, John is a transformational leader and also has significant experience in business as a management consultant, where he led teams implementing large, complex projects. He now serves as an executive coach, leadership consultant, and trainer.
Learn more about John Gronski at https://johngronski.com/