Leadership’s Role in Encouraging Bottom-up Alignment
How can leaders enable Peak Performance in their teams? In this excerpt from The Shift from Me to Team, which will be published this year, we describe the exemplary leader.
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Leadership is ultimately responsible for team success. Leaders are the key enablers of your organization’s Reinforcing Systems that create flow for sustainable success. It is leadership’s first responsibility to close the gaps with Peak Performance.
Team members observe what leaders do as well as what they say. They look to leadership as the role models for acceptable behavior. Furthermore, team members feel the direct impact of what leadership says and does. Most team members assume they should emulate leaders if they want to become leaders themselves or for their own survival in the organization. Strategic, disciplined, purposeful leaders (we’ll call them exemplary leaders) understand that their actions and words have a ripple effect—they impact the entire organization. What they do and say has the power to create safety and security as team members grow in alignment. Exemplary leaders model the organization’s Shift from Me to Team to help close Peak Performance gaps.
Exemplary Me to Team leadership behavior, especially when under pressure, is transformative for an organization.
The exemplary leader on the journey from Me to Team views every interaction as an opportunity to reinforce the organization’s Core Identity.
Exemplary leaders are aware of the impact of:
- what, when, and how they speak
- but most importantly—what, when, and how they act
The Core Identity Committees we described in earlier posts require the support of exemplary leaders to enable the Reinforcing Systems to permeate the organization. The day-to-day challenges and responsibilities can pull team members away from their committee responsibilities, stalling the institutionalization of the disciplined culture desired by all. It is up to leadership to ensure the success of these committees by encouraging deserving, willing, passionate committee members to be leaders helping align the organization.
This is an excellent opportunity to seek and identify the organization’s emerging leaders for tomorrow. These high-potential people may leave the organization if not recognized with greater responsibility, and it’s an opportunity for emerging leaders to demonstrate their gifts.
Exemplary leaders ensure committees are given the time and resources to institutionalize the desired culture. Furthermore, it’s incumbent upon the leader to listen and be responsive to the committee’s findings and recommendations. Leadership, not the committees, is the ultimate enabler of the reinforcement and the ultimate success, and the committees need leadership support.
By sharing responsibility for culture alignment with the committees, exemplary leaders reinforce the Shift from Me to Team. Exemplary leaders share the responsibility for the journey to creating flow for sustainable success.
We witnessed the comprehensive transformation in an academic health center when the then-authoritarian chair relinquished control of the future look and feel of the department to the Core Identity committees. The committees were energized with members from all departments and levels, and they met regularly to help create the desired picture of their organization at its best for Peak Performance. The transition was dramatic and felt by all. The relinquishing of control created some of the best grassroots work we have seen. As the leader relinquished control, they grew in their understanding of leadership, and the department flourished.
The exemplary leader acknowledges that they do not have all the answers. They are humble and open to learning and growing from any source that can help the journey. While retaining the ultimate responsibility for decisions made, they seek the best solutions from team members. They are committed to identifying the best possible solution. They seek diverse, balanced perspectives in decision-making. Their experience has shown that the best answers come from team members closest to the challenge who best understand the complexities and implications of the decision. The leader owns the decision but understands that the best decision-making comes from seeking balanced input from many perspectives. If there is a tie on the right thing to do, then the leader may cast the deciding vote.
From the CEO of a consumer products organization
“My partner and I would develop our game plan for the organization. We’d search for new opportunities, look at acquiring new companies . . . we’d be 90% of the way down the road before engaging our team for input and feedback. They were not in the game, and the execution showed they were not. Now, we may come up with opportunities, but we ask them to investigate with us and help us figure out how good a fit the new opportunity might be. It’s helped, and we have gone from an isolation/dictatorship model to a team-oriented model, and it’s working.”
The exemplary leader understands that the intrinsic energy of their team members is the force that will enable the organization to realize its potential for sustainable success. Exemplary leaders understand that team members do not want to be average; they desire to be exceptional and set exceptional standards for themselves and others. The exemplary leader giving up control enables team members to own and be responsible for the organization’s future. That said, it is also important for the exemplary leaders to continue to support and reinforce the committees, and for team members to sustain their commitment to pursuing excellence.