Leadership is one of those things that we all would like to be great at but we often fall short of. Life just seems to get in the road at times. I asked myself why is that?

I found two quotes, one very old and one more current which I think encapsulate something that I think is a critical issue for us as leaders.

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists…when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will all say: We did it ourselves.”
— Lao-Tzu, an ancient philosopher and founder of Taoism

“Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.”
— Sheryl Sanberg, COO of Facebook

How do you make that happen? The days of people blindly doing what they are told is long gone if it ever existed at all. I think there are three key elements to getting people to do tasks that they don’t really want to do for the greater good is tricky. The key is in the second quote if you do this right they will continue to do the right thing even when you are not watching. If they “get” why they have to do it and how that contributes to the larger whole they will willingly do it.

First: Allow them to see the Big picture

Investing the time in allowing people to see how their role or job contributes to the larger whole. Try to create a picture of how the Company’s service and or product contributes to the wider community. For example, I used to work in a factory making plastic bags. I would talk about how our product allowed New Zealand to get our meat production across the world in the best condition possible. What they did was so much more than just making another box of bags. They understood that the wider community was relying on them to do a great job so that they could excel at theirs.

Secondly there is the WIFIM. 

Business owners also have to take the time to understand what it is like in their staff’s shoes and the “What’s in it for me?” perspective. Ask yourself “How does what I am asking them to do contribute to their own needs and wants?” Sometimes, this is as simple as the knowledge they are working for a successful company that secures their own income and provides opportunities to learn new skills and grow.

Finally Let them be creative about how the achieve the result. 

It is important not to be too prescriptive about the methods to lead staff. Rather, it is the end result that you want to achieve. If appropriate, give staff some space to use their own initiative to come up with how they will achieve their agreed results. Obviously, this is not possible in many jobs where there strict adherence to processes for health, safety and compliance reasons. However, the point is to make sure that staff feel involved and part of the bigger picture.

Let’s recap:

  1. Allow staff to see the Big Picture
  2. What’s in it for them?
  3. Let them be creative with how they achieve their results.

One final quote on leadership

“A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.”
Rosalynn Carter, Jimmy Carters Wife and life long supporter of equal rights.