“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more
and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams

People follow leaders. People work for managers. It is a great outcome when the organizational power of management is bestowed upon a leader. But sadly, it does not always turn out that way. Regardless if you are a manager or not, your organization will be a better place to work if you are a good to great leader because among other things leaders:

  • Drive or at least facilitate open communication
  • Promote teamwork
  • Reinforce positive behaviors such as innovation and process excellence
  • Strive to eliminate organizational weaknesses such as ineffective/nonexistent processes, group think, incidents, and intellectual stagnation

This blog series explores some important aspects of leadership, how some of the less visible things leaders do add value to their organizations, and what can be done to unlock the leadership potential in each of us.

What Are We Talking About?

To ensure clear meaning let’s define some important terms and concepts:

An organization is a group of people with a shared mission, resources, and plans to direct human behavior toward reliable operation. This can be a company, government, or volunteer organization. Organizations direct human behavior in a predictable way, usually through processes, values, and belief systems. Workers, supervisors, support staff, managers, and executives all make up the organization; as do equipment, structures, processes, procedures and culture.

Reliable operation typically means consistently good quality and performance. That means the organization’s end product(s) are of desired quality and performance, and includes other factors such as employee safety, environmental and community health associated with the organization. They too must be in good quality and performance.

A leader is anyone who takes personal responsibility for their own performance and the organization’s performance and attempts to positively influence the processes and values of the organization.

Managers and supervisors are in positions of authority and responsibility within an organization. However, some individuals in these positions may not exhibit leadership as defined above.

Individual workers within an organization (an employee or volunteer in any position in the organization) even if not in managerial positions of authority can be, and often are, influential leaders. Leadership is earned from subordinates, peers, and superiors not bestowed by organizations per se.

Human Performance?

If we concur that an organization is a group of people with a shared mission, resources, and plans to direct human behavior toward reliable operation it would seem a reasonable next step to say: the success or failure of people is the driving force behind the success or failure of the organization.

It is important for leaders and managers to recognize then that people achieve levels of performance commensurate with the encouragement and reinforcement they receive. All human behavior, good and bad, is reinforced, whether by immediate consequences or by longer term outcome. Since consequences are the outcome of good or bad behavior in an organization it is important to reinforce good behavior to improve human performance and the performance of the organization.

The traditional belief in organizational performance is worker based. If an operational, quality control, safety, health, or environmental incident occur it is because someone is stupid or unreliable. Punish or better yet get rid of the stupid or unreliable person and everything will be fine. However operational research and experience across industries over the past couple decades indicates that weaknesses in organizational processes, leadership, and cultural values are involved in the majority of incidents of all varieties. Incidents result from a combination of factors, most of which are beyond the control of the worker but that can be corrected with the help of a good leader.

If you are a leader desirous of leadership coaching or your organization is on a path toward increasing its organizational performance contact Expressworks. We have consultants with experience in these areas who can help in your journey.

In the next installment of this blog series we will discuss learning. Particularly we will focus on learning from errors and how this will improve operational effectiveness.

This blog is the first installment of a blog series on Change Leadership:

  1. What is a Leader?
  2. Better Outcomes Through Learning
  3. Failure and Bravery