Leadership is about people, not quotas. To believe that the number of wins a leader has under her belt matters more than the growth and development of her followers is a fallacy.
With the current economic climate, leaders are looking to cut corners, raise revenue, and increase profit margins in order to keep their organizations or firms afloat. These efforts are noble in the sense that they purport to advance the good of the company, continue the mission of the nonprofit, and keep as many employees as possible on the payroll. However, efficiency can never be placed above the personal development and nurturing of leaders and staff within an organization. When this happens, the entire organization is in jeopardy.
An organization is only as strong as the members, employees, and staff persons that work in it. Without these individuals, products are not made, deals are not done, and the hungry are not served. It is not enough to pay lip service to these individuals, or simply pat them on the back for a job well done. There must be a comprehensive strategy to develop leaders at all tiers within an organization.
The new generation of job seekers, as many report, may not work at an organization more than two to three years. At the same time, there is a growing number of leaders retiring or starting a second career, some with little or no succession plan. The fear created by this dynamic is palpable and is seen in the face of many leaders: “Who’s next in line? What is the future of corporate, nonprofit, or public sector America?”
Investment capital, both in real dollars and in human terms, must be pooled and shared by members of our global community, to then be invested in a strategic and deliberate way in our next generation of leaders. Leadership cannot afford to disinvest in the leaders of tomorrow and base their decision making strictly on monetary returns. The fluidity of sectors and those that will work in them demands that all three sectors converge and find common ground. A good place to start is in the investment of underutilized, underdeveloped, rising talent.
A leader cannot send mixed messages to his team members, expecting them to deliver results without a true belief that they can in fact deliver and produce those results. To be sure, these team members must have core competencies and a good work ethic to thrive, but they also need hope. That hope comes from leadership’s belief that these team members will succeed, despite temporary obstacles that arise along the way.
To truly lead, a leader must see individuals not for who they appear to be on the outside, or who they are today, but the potential that lies within them. A leader must see their staff at the finish line and then help them to get there. A leader must not be dissuaded by the occasional stumble or left turn that a staff member may take, especially during the early, cultivation stages. Instead, leaders wearing coats of all colors should harken back to their early days and exercise compassion and support whenever possible.
As a leader, you either cultivate those that you are leading or you release those individuals to positions or companies that may be a better fit for their skills and talents. Those organizations that will be the most successful and salient moving forward are those entities that invest more in their employees than in new equipment or better technology. While it is true that the new age demands that organizations invest more in their technological capacity, leaders within these organizations cannot afford to ignore the laborers that kept their organizations afloat at the height of the economic recession.
The competition for “good talent” is great, but leaders must recognize that good talent comes in many shapes, sizes, and colors, and many times can be found right under the leader’s nose. It may be the person that is shy at board meetings, or who does not appear “aggressive enough,” or who constantly opts out of challenging assignments because of fear of failure. These types of individuals need a leader that is less concerned about her bottom line, profit margin, or shrinking county budget and instead maintains a sense of hope, optimism, and sensitivity to her staff. Why? The cyclical nature of the market and growth informs us that while things may never be what they once were before the recession, the economic climate is and will continue to improve. What remains uncertain, however, is how our nation’s employees will fare as things progressively improve.
Working America, from the farmer to the salesman to the corner office guy needs hope. More than ever before, the populace is yearning for hope that produces change, both to their bottom line and to the state of conflict and chaos that has permeated our discourse and even our shopping centers as of late. Even in the face of adversity, hope has the power to allay fear and to set hearts at ease. Hope gets people up in the morning and dressed for work. Hope is the light at the end of the tunnel, the force that keeps a girl fighting despite being kidnapped for ten years, and the underpinning of dreams yet realized. Hope is more than just a concept or a campaign catchphrase. Hope keeps people alive, and gives them a reason for living. Even working.
The best leaders are not the ones that can give all of their employees raises, nor are they the individuals that make false guarantees that each staff member will have a job next year. None of us are sure of exactly what the future holds, but we should–no we must–be sure of the God who holds our future. As world citizens, we must remain anchored to our faith in God so that we can operate in the hope that faith and love provides. When we do so, we not only love and look out for our fellow human beings, but we also encourage hard work, innovation, and creative thinking–some of the strongest attributes of our human race.
If you’ve lost hope, need hope, or desire to help others hope, I invite you to write back and share your thoughts, ideas, or experiences. It is time for us to begin the process of healing our country, our businesses, and our communities, and it will start when we express these feelings and give them room to breathe. Thank you so much for reading.
Yours in the Journey, Anique