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In this series, I am introducing you to the twenty superpowers that leaders need to possess to create an environment for resilience. This is an environment in which individuals and teams are resilient in the face of constant change.
Individual resilience is critical when the world around us is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Resilience means we can adapt to difficult situations and not just survive but thrive. Unless we do, the stress will overwhelm us, and we will suffer physically and mentally.
Each week we will explore one of those twenty superpowers.
Superpower: The Director
The Director provides clear direction for themselves and their employees. They provide clear direction but not at the expense of employee autonomy.
They provide clear direction without being prescriptive or micromanaging.
They enable resilience by providing clear direction, and when setbacks occur, they are able to get everyone back on track and working towards shared goals.
Everyone needs to know where they are going. If they don’t, there is uncertainty and confusion. This lowers resilience. As a leader, you set direction and create a shared sense of purpose where everyone is heading in the same direction to achieve shared goals.
The direction must be clear and unambiguous. It must be described in a simple language and be accompanied by a description of how everyone is going to move forward.
The direction a leader sets for a team or the entire organisation is often referred to as the North Star.
In the past, mariners made their way through seas and oceans using celestial bodies such as sun, moon and stars. The most popular and reliable was Polaris, also known as the North Star.
A North Star is the positive vision that a leader creates and shares. This points everyone in the right direction.
The North Star guides everyone towards achievement of vision and moving in the same direction.
Our world will continually change, just as the seas and weather conditions change, and we cannot control those changes. Whilst these changes may alter our plans, we weather the storm and keep moving towards the North Star.
In his book, The power of positive leadership: How and why positive leaders transform teams and organizations and change the world, Jon Gordon writes about the telescope and microscope that leaders need on the journey to the North Star.
As a positive leader you will want to carry a telescope and a microscope with you on your journey. The telescope helps you and your team keep your eyes on your vision, North Star, and big picture. The microscope helps you zoom-focus on the things you must do in the short term to realize the vision in your telescope.
If you have only a telescope, then you’ll be thinking about your vision all the time and dreaming about the future but not taking the necessary steps to realize it. If you have only a microscope, then you’ll be working hard every day but setbacks and challenges will likely frustrate and discourage you because you’ll lose sight of the big picture.
The direction must include the following:
Explain why we are heading in this direction. Again, there should be absolute clarity and no room for misinterpretation. There has to be alignment with organisational vision, goals and direction.
The reason for the direction must be believable. Employees (and other stakeholders) need context to understand why the priorities are important and the benefit it will bring to the organisation and the individuals within it.
The Director ensures the expectations of everyone are clearly articulated, and the outcomes and timeframes are clear and understood.
When setting direction, it is that everyone understands “why” they are heading in that direction.
It is often overlooked in preference of explaining the “what” and the “how.” Employees need to know why, before you explain what it looks like and how we are going to achieve it. It’s like telling me that we are going to London and we will get there by air and road. That tells me what and how, but it has no context as there is no why.
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