W.C.H. Prentice in a landmark article defined leadership thusly: “the accomplishment of a goal through the direction of human assistants”
Prentice believed a successful leader is one who understands people’s motivations. They are someone who enlist organization members’ participation in a way that brings together the interests and needs of individuals to the group’s purpose. Prentice believed in a democratic leadership that gives organization members a space in which they can learn and grow. Yet, this space needs governed so there is not anarchy.
Prentice’s ideas about how to motivate people to support the organization’s purpose is timeless.
Leaders should always be getting to know their group’s members so they can understand their motivations. And one learning about those motivations using them as impetuous to spur that group member into action for the benefit of the organization and themselves.
Material rewards are important but there should also always be room for personal growth, and it is the leader’s job to create that opportunity. This personal growth should be linked both to the group member’s motivations and too the goals of the organization.
Leadership is a process. A complex one. It is a relationship built between leader and follower. This group also has the element of a goal everyone desires.
There are five moving parts that interact to create the entity of relationship of exchanges—the leader, the followers, the situation, the process itself and the results. On a timeline each of these parts influences the others and the outcomes of these interactions set precedents for the future.
Leaders are typically viewed as one who orchestrates or guides. The set the tone for the group in the hopes of moving forward with a goal in mind. Followers are not to be viewed as passive, however. In fact, many now view the followers as the most critical aspect of the relationship. It is the follower who sees the situation and defines the needs of the group to accomplish the goal.
The personality of the follower is what determines what kind of leadership style will be most effective. Leadership is not one philosophy the leader foists onto any group of followers.
The situation surrounds the followers and the leader and helps define what the followers need from the leader. Will the groups current skill set be able to solve the problem of the situation or do they need new guidance from the leader? Are the goals of the group clear? What are the emotions of the group concerning the problem to solve or the goals? Excited? Frustrated? Defeated?
Finally, there is the process itself which is distinct from the leader (the orchestrator). This process is never finished and evolves even as the situation, the goals, the followers and even the orchestrator change or move on.
In a sense the leader must be the most malleable and open to adaptation and change. The situation is defined, the leader’s team is defined, the goal is defined, the process of leadership is an always moving target. The leader must see this picture and adapt to be successful.
Given this time of year is busy and stressful both in our careers and in our personal lives it seems impossible to even begin to think about next year when there is so much crammed into the end of this year. But it is really never too early to start thinking about the future.
As a leader it is your job to set the tone. When looking at your end of the year numbers, keep in mind that you’ll want to budget both time and resources to invest in the professional growth of your time. You’ll want the best quality training you can get. Whether it is keeping up with new technology, changes in regulations that affect your business, or changes to products, services and branding you’ll want your team up to date for the challenges ahead.
Pep talks, metaphoric speeches and rallying the troops is all well and good, but you’ll want real, concrete goals for the new year. Vague New Year’s resolutions like ‘getting the business into shape’ are useful and it is hard to make your team accountable for such vague goals. You want to set goals that are specific and achievable—if you set goals too high you are setting your team up for failure. You also want to set goals for which you can measure you and your team’s success. Also, give yourself and your team a time frame for achieving these goals.
At some level all successful businesses depend on quality data. Whether your team collects this data for the organization or you organization outsources their data acquisition make sure you are acquiring data that is not only accurate, but the data you actually need. Look back at your year and decide where you data was lacking.
When we speak about success, leadership, the workplace and other goal oriented parts of our lives we typically think of distractions as bad. How to avoid all those things that lead our attention away from responsibility and personal betterment have been a large part of the conversation of success. But what if distractions weren’t all bad—which seems to be the popular narrative about distractions in America.
According to an article in Psychology Today distractions can very much be a good thing in many situations. The article suggests that distractions are one of our primary coping mechanisms for dealing with physical pain. Not only that, but also mental pain such as anxiety. In children, pre-surgery anxiety is very common. In one study, three groups of children were studied for pre-surgery anxiety. There were three groups: one was given an anxiety medication; one group was given nothing; one group were given video games to play. The study found the video game group to have the least amount of measurable anxiety. Another study found that adult patients given video games to play experienced 50% less pain during wound cleanings.
But clearly distractions are also bad at time. How can we tell the difference? Dr. Jane MacGonigal has written extensively on the subject of distraction and she suggests that we simply ask ourselves whether we are using the object of distraction as an escape from our lives or are we using it to enhance our lives?
In the workplace, in a group as the leader, is a particular person or group using a distraction as a means to avoid uncomfortable conversation, to avoid boring or challenging work, to disengage from useful problem solving? Maybe it’s OK for your employee to play Words with Friends for fifteen minutes to ease their anxiety about please an important client. Maybe some off-topic conversation at a creative meeting is just want the group needs to relax and be able to share the ideas they think might be good, but are afraid of.