Leadership is a privilege given to a person by those who follow. You do not become a leader just because you have been given a title or a position of authority. Leadership is achieved when those who follow willingly give their full heart, talent, intelligence and energy toward your cause. I call this organizational alignment – the alignment of individual will with organizational will.
In my experience, organizational alignment seems to be a key differentiator between good organizations and great organizations. You may have world-class talent, strategy, and products, but you still may not be achieving your potential. Professional sports teams are a great example and case study of this reality. I’m always fascinated by the “underdogs” that beat the better financed and talent rich teams. What makes them different? To me, the reason consistently seems to be top to bottom organizational alignment.
How do leaders create alignment? It really comes down to influencing change; changing thinking, changing behavior, changing results. Change only happens when a person sincerely chooses to act differently. Therefore, before change happens, the person must choose to accept a different course of action and have real intent to pursue it. How do you influence a person to make that choice to change their course of action? You help them gain understanding of correct principles or truths that are the guideposts for action. Correct principles and truths are the greatest influence on thinking and perspective, thinking then influences choice, choice then drives true and lasting change.
So where do you start? You start with identifying and understanding the principles or truths you and your organization operate by. I refer to these principles or truths as axioms. Axioms include the organization’s values, practices and expectations. Once you identify the company axioms (which isn’t easy by the way) you then work to align your vision, strategy, culture, and talent to these axioms. This part becomes easier once you have clear understanding of your axioms. Through the lens of axioms you see how a strategy doesn’t fit with what your best in the world at and how it should be altered. Through the axiom lens you see how a workplace culture is not consistent with the beliefs you are trying to instill to create accountability for results. Through the axiom lens you can see how a particular person may be extremely talented, but just not a good fit for your organization.
Then you make the choice as a leader. You either accept the situation or act to change it. Since all people have a fundamental right to choose to act and not be acted upon, I usually recommend leaders act to change once they see what needs to be done.
Here’s the kicker – a leader can’t begin to change the organization unless they first evaluate themselves and make the necessary personal changes. I call this becoming an axiom leader or, in other words, a leader of understanding. More on that concept in my next post.
Elder Axiom – Axiom leaders choose to operate from a base of fixed principles or truths rather than making up the rules as they go along.
Choose to be an axiom leader.