THE STUDY OF LEADERSHIP traditionally starts by focusing on the leader’s personal awareness of themselves and their style in interacting with others. From first line to top line executives, mastering yourself and your interactions permits effective communication, clear performance expectations and teamwork. The second stage concentrates on process knowledge and skills to produce value. Work can only be accomplished when key skills are applied. Both of these leadership dimensions will succeed in a relatively stable environment since interpersonal relationship principles are relatively stable and skill requirements typically change slowly over time.
However, a third dimension recently became an essential leadership component. It requires agility in setting wise and timely direction or goals based on changing circumstances and situations. The ability of leaders to conduct a situational triage mirrors what medical professionals employ when handling a crisis. They scan all of the patients’ issues, weigh the alternatives and set a course of action based on handling the most critical cases first. Now that change and crises regularly impact those outside the medical profession, all leaders need to learn how to conduct a triage to ensure that critical steps take priority. The ability to capture changing realities that produce stellar results defines a truly successful executive.
However, keeping these three dimensions of leadership development in balance is similar to walking a tight rope. It is hard and challenging, but it is necessary to move forward. When imbalance surfaces, the problem can be diagnosed by examining how it has impacted the organization.
- When people and personal connections swamp process and priorities, the result is the perception that favoritism, politics, cliques and pet projects drive decision making.
- If process inordinately drives decision making at the cost of people and priorities, the evidence is that bureaucracy and red tape are drowning out innovation, service, collaboration and productivity.
- When priority setting unrealistically prevails over people and process, the result is disengagement, turnover, and productivity issues.
The best way to ensure leaders effectively employ and balance all three essential leadership dimensions is through transparent and open communication, mutual respect and a reward system that recognizes initiative.
What have you done or observed that establishes an effective balance between people, process, and priorities?