“What right have you to recite my statutes? For you hate discipline, and you cast my words behind you.” – Psalm 50:16-17
God asked this very blunt question of those Israelite leaders who began to willfully disregard the covenant law; the very law that they were charged to obey and enforce. This disregard, no doubt rooted in impatience, laziness and resentment, became widespread amongst Israel’s leaders. And just as with Israel, every organization seems to have that small handful of leaders who have strayed off course; feigning loyalty while practicing disobedience.
Leading leaders is quite a different task than leading team members. Subordinate leaders are direct extensions of you; just as you are an extension of your leader. You trust them to execute your vision through enforcing defined standards of performance and engagement. When that trust is betrayed by a subordinate leader, the resulting disappointment dwarfs that of a team member’s disobedience any day. Such a breach of trust is not only disruptive to an organization, but often irreparable.
Proactive leaders will maintain cohesion and prevent deviations to their vision through regularly exercising a few critical steps:
- Clearly communicate vision. Be specific in explaining the What and Why of your vision. Never assume that your subordinate leaders will simply infer these or you may be disappointed in their results. Ask them to explain their understanding of your directive if you have any doubt.
- Maintain constant communication. Regular communication is key to maintaining a grasp of how a team and its leader are performing, whether it be one-on-one or in group settings. This also helps to build an environment of dialogue, trust and support.
- Be present. Often. Leadership is not simply a position or title. It is an intangible commodity that must be continuously honed through interaction and visibility. Your presence signals your support for the subordinate leader, and also helps you to ensure that your vision is being communicated and executed as you expect.
Our subordinate leaders are often the critical first sale of our vision. Every effort must be made to safeguard their committment. As our team members see their leaders supporting and working toward achieving our vision, then they will hopefully follow suit. And so on, all the way through the organization; each level supporting the vision of the one above, until a true alignment of effort is established.