Over the course of my career I have been presented with new roles and new opportunities. Each time, as I meet with my new colleagues, I spend a great deal of time listening, trying to capture and understand their context and mapping this against my own experience and expectations. What I am looking for is the space to create a perspective. An angle. And in any people driven business – and today, which organization wouldn’t classify itself in this way – it’s essential for leaders to understand the angles and where they lead to.
Almost without fail, it is during this time of investigation that I will meet with people who consider themselves critical to the business. They believe – whole-heartedly – that without their personal contribution, that progress would not continue, that the business would not grow and that innovation would dry up like a river in drought. They instil this direction in their own teams. They explain to direct reports and wider teams, the vital role that each is making in pursuit of the corporate agenda and they empower these people to help drive the business forward.
And then, a few days later I meet someone else. Someone who considers their role critical to the efficient and profitable running of the business. They present as lynch-pin, deeply embedded in the fabric of the organization. They’re the beating heart if not the soul of the company.
And still later I meet with my new direct reports. They too explain the central role they play in owning and delivering on the strategy. They map out responsibilities and show precisely how essential their performance is in the grand scheme of things. Again, I nod, take notes and continue to build out my contextual map.
You see, we all need to be critical. We all need to own and act with our own sense of agency. We need to create our own narratives – our own stories that explain from the inside out, exactly what we do and how it becomes larger than ourselves. Now, I am not advocating over-exaggeration, but I am suggesting that you develop and share your leadership narrative. After all, if you don’t tell your own story, who will?
Nina Nets It Out: Hard and smart work doesn’t guarantee anything other than that you will be working hard and achieving good results. But, to reap your due rewards from your efforts you need to be able to provide a context for your leadership in a way that others can identify with, understand and act upon.