Over the past five months we have been on a journey of leadership self discovery and self awareness. Vince Lombardi said, “Only by knowing yourself can you become an effective leader.” Leadership starts with a deep understanding of the inner game of who you are. This allows you to present yourself in the most confident and authentic way so that you will be able to lead yourself, your team, your organization and your family effectively.
What is the outer game of leadership? It is simply the skills and competencies required to be an effective and authentic leader. It starts with vision!
Leaders first and foremost must have a clear vision of where they are going personally and professionally. They must articulate a vision for the organization they lead. Without a vision, people don’t know where they are going and why. It is your job as the leader to bring people together and share with them a vision for success.
Let me share a personal story about vision and how it helped me and my team accomplish great things together. Early in my career I was asked to lead a turn around. I knew that the operations were in dire straits. I heard from outsiders that things were bad but, I did not know how bad until I got there and assessed the situation. Here is what I found:
- We were the least profitable operation in the company. We were burning cash, losing money and staff were leaving.
- Revenues were declining. We were losing business faster than we were generating it.
- There was an environment of mistrust, poor communication, back biting, poor team work and undermining leadership.
- No vision for success.
The situation was terrible. However, as the new leader, I recognized that things could get better. This was a great career opportunity and I was going to test my leadership skills while learning a great deal about myself as a leader.
One of the first things I did after assessing the situation was to take time for myself and reflect on the team and business I inherited. I started to get clear on my vision for myself as a leader and how I wanted to lead the turnaround. I also became very clear on my vision for the business in the next 3 years. I resisted focusing on strategy simply to allow me to think bigger and develop a more compelling vision I could get excited about and others as well. My vision was compelling, positive and forward thinking. I developed a vision statement and then called a meeting with the team.
I shared what I had learned about the team and the business. I held nothing back and was brutally honest and straight forward just where we were as an organization. I then shared my vision for the future and provided as much detail as I could about financial performance, teamwork, trust and how we would behave and work together.
Many found my vision compelling and quickly got on board. Others took longer, some voluntarily left and I had to take action on those who did not want to be a part of our vision.
As the author of the vision, I knew I had to live and breathe it every day. I read my vision daily as if my team had accomplished it. I prayed about it and asked for divine help to guide me and the team. My team helped to develop the strategies for success and I was blessed to receive resources from the outside to achieve the vision. I communicated the vision every opportunity I had with staff, clients and vendors. I even used a wolf pack hunting its prey as a metaphor for how our team needed to work together to achieve the vision.
I printed parts of Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “The Law of the Jungle“, to further illustrate how we needed to work together to achieve our vision. The first four stanzas of the poem read:
Now this is the
Law of the Jungle,
as old and as true
as the sky.
And the Wolf that shall
keep it may prosper,
but the Wolf that
shall break it must die.
As the creeper that
girdles the tree trunk,
the Law runneth
forward and back.
For the strength of the
Pack is the Wolf,
and the strength of the
Wolf is the Pack.
I thought my vision would take three years to accomplish. Amazingly, we had almost completed the turnaround in eighteen months. My team exceeded almost every aspect of the vision. We did it first with a compelling vision that the team embraced and bought into. We then focused the team on strategies and resources to get there.
If you are struggling with your team, your business or your own leadership, ask yourself how clear you are with what you want? If you are not crystal clear, here is what I recommend you do:
- Take time for yourself and start thinking about your current situation and all the things that frustrate you about your leadership, your team and organization. Be honest. You will not change until you find your current reality unacceptable.
- Next, write down what you would like to see happen. Think about your inner game and what you want for yourself, your team and the organization you lead. Get detailed and think big. Write these in present tense as if they have actually happened.
- Share your vision with your team and get feedback.
- Commit to read your vision daily and talk about it as often as you can with your staff, clients and vendors.
- Finally, present yourself everyday as the most passionate, visionary leader you can be.
Leadership starts with your inner game first. Your outer game starts with vision. What is your vision for success?