We talked earlier about the four foundation stones of leadership. The first of these is understanding the expectations that others have of you as a leader. If you are already in a leadership position, it's critical that you understand what others want from you in your role. If you are not yet in a leadership position, you need to think about what others would want from you in order for you to assume the leadership role to which you aspire. Start delivering against those expectations and you may find yourself in the role sooner than you think.
But before you rush off to start asking, think about who it is that is impacted by your actions. The list will almost certainly include your boss and any people that report through to you, but will likely include your peers - the people with whom you work and who depend upon you and your outputs to get their own work done. And let's not forget the customers or clients - the very people that the organisation seeks to serve.
If you are the big boss, you are going to have to think about shareholders, your bank and the community in which you are based. They too will have clear expectations about how you conduct your affairs.
So if all you do is worry about what your boss thinks, then you are not behaving as a leader. You need to broaden your thought process.
Let's think through what some of these 'stakeholders' might want.
You should have a clear description of your job. You should also have regular discussions with your boss about how you are getting on, preferably based on a written set of deliverables. See the section on Performance Management for more detail. Make sure you quiz your boss thoroughly about what he/she expects from you and get regular feedback as to how you are doing.
Your customers or clients
These are the people who the organisation seeks to serve. Understanding their needs, wants and expectations is critical. Whilst your role may not necessarily put you in the line of fire when it comes to customers, it's hard to deny that the principal focus of everyone in a commercial organisation should be creating, keeping and delighting customers at a profit. If it's not clear to all how this is going to be achieved then there is a big problem that must be tackled. Good leaders will make it their business to understand customers and what they want. And if you are in a 'not for profit' organisation, the people that the organisation serves are still your clients and you still need to understand what they expect. So get out there and talk to them - you may be surprised by what you hear!
THE FOUR FOUNDATION STONES OF LEADERSHIP
It might sound a bit radical, but as their boss why not ask them what they expect from you? They won't bite! Whether you are new in the job or someone who has worked with your group for a while, an honest and open discussion about what they want from their leader could really help you to be much more effective. Ask them what they need and expect from you in order for them to be effective and productive. Get it written down and refer to it often. You might need to build confidence over time before they are truly open and honest with you, but that confidence is critical if you are going to get the best from them.
Your peers and colleagues
Definitely one for a discussion. Understanding their expectations of you will help to ensure that you don't let them down, and enable them to contribute as expected. People often talk about teams in the workplace. One of the characteristics of a team is that the individual members are reliant upon each other to deliver the overall result. But all too often organisations exist in vertical silos, when the people who consume what you do (and whom you therefore serve) are in another department or function. If you are responsible for delivering widgets to the production line, you need to understand in fine detail their requirements of you. More and more organisations are getting into performance reviews that ask your peers how you are doing - this is so important when they are dependent on you to get their work done!
Every organisation is likely to have some impact on the community. You may not be the boss of BP but even modest organisations need to think carefully about their responsibilities to the communities of which they are a part. Are you taking responsibility for clearing up rubbish and litter outside your premises for example? You may not have put it there but taking ownership for the area adjacent to your premises is the sign of a business that cares.
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There is a danger that you might conclude I am advocating that leaders need to try and please everyone. That is not the case. Leaders need to be thoughtful and understand the legitimate expectations that others have of them. If they don't, or if they disagree, then the leader must confront the issue. Only by understanding the expectations can the leader decide how they are to be met, or the action that must be taken to explain why they cannot.