Do you Embody the Four Strategies of a Proven Leader?
In working with leaders, both within healthcare delivery and healthcare business, I often reference Warren Bennis’ research on what makes for effective leadership. As you start the year 2002, here is your opportunity to take a personal inventory of whether you have, or are building, “the right stuff” to lead your team.
In “Leaders, The Strategies for Taking Charge”, authors Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus, describe four types of competency—four types of human handling skills—that their leadership subjects had in common. Of significance is that the men and women they studied were all leading change and directing new initiatives—there were no “incrementalists”. “These were people creating new ideas, new policies, new methodologies. They changed the basic metabolism of their organizations. These leaders were, in Camus’ phrase, ‘creating dangerously,’ not simply mastering basic routines.”
Here are The Four Strategies:
- Attention Through Vision
- Meaning Through Communication
- Trust Through Positioning
- The Deployment of Self Through (1) positive self-regard and (2) the Wallenda factor
Strategy I: Attention Through Vision
Management of attention through vision is the creating of focus. All the leaders studied in Bennis and Nanus work had an agenda, an unparalleled concern with outcome. Leaders are “results-oriented individuals” who transmit an “unbridled clarity” about they want from their colleagues, associates and players. “Their fixation with and undeviating attention to outcomes brings about a confidence on the part of their employees–a confidence that instills in them a belief that they are capable of performing the necessary work.”
Strategy II: Meaning Through Communication
Success requires the capacity to relate a compelling image of a desired state of affairs—the kind of image of the future or of a product experience that induces enthusiasm and commitment in others. This does not necessarily require a flair for oratory, but rather the ability to present meaning, to take the abstract and convey what it means experientially. The importance of this is clear when you understand that all organizations depend on the existence of sharing meanings and interpretations—-What are we doing? What is our purpose? What kind of impact will our work have on the world?
Strategy III: Trust Through Positioning
Trust is the glue that maintains organizational integrity. Followers trust leaders who are predictable, whose positions are known and who keep at it; leaders who are trusted make themselves known, make their positions clear. “Leaders are reliable and tirelessly persistent.” All leadership requires constancy; it is not necessarily the direction—the angle you take–that counts, but sticking reasonably to the direction you choose. One of the significant benefits of constancy is revealed as organizations take on risks—to innovate, challenge and change. Leadership of trust creates the foundation for steadiness, forward movement and “courageous patience.”
Strategy IV (1): The Deployment of Self Through Positive Self-Regard
“Leadership is an essentially human business.” The top executives studied by Bennis and Nanus spent roughly 90 percent of their time with others and “virtually the same percentage of their time concerned with the messiness of people problems.” A key factor in successful leadership is the creative deployment of self: management of self—the nurturing of personal strengths and skills, and the compensation and adjustment for one’s weaknesses. Positive self-regard consists of three major components: knowledge of one’s strengths, the capacity to nurture those strengths, and the ability to discern the fit between one’s strengths and weaknesses and the organization’s needs. Positive self-regard is related to emotional wisdom, or to use a more trendy phrase, emotional intelligence.
Strategy IV(2): The Deployment of Self Through the Wallenda Factor
“Being on the tightrope is living; everything else is waiting.” —Karl Walenda, 1968
Like Karl Wallenda, whose life was at stake each time he walked the tightrope, effective leaders put all their energies into the task. They don’t think about failure and indeed rarely used the word. “Mistakes”, “glitches”, “false starts”, are part of the vocabulary and experience of the leader, and each of these has an important life lesson that only serves to propel one more effectively toward success. The tension of the Wallenda factor is that of failure versus learning. Leaders use the energy springing from “false steps” to reach higher goals; a false step for an organization is an opportunity to learn how to create the vision—and not the end of the world.
Where do you stand with the Four Strategies?
If you have a leadership role currently—whether in healthcare delivery, in business, as a new business owner—I strongly encourage you to read more about the Four Strategies from Bennis and Nanus. Take your own personal inventory and see where you stand relative to each of the strategies. Where can you improve? How can you bring the Four Strategies into your own leadership team?
From my own experience as a manager, leader, and team member, the success of any endeavor—whether implementing a project, building a product, merging two companies, or introducing a new quality initiative—is dependent on only one thing: good leadership.