Monday, September 17, 2012

Five Fundamental Questions for Leaders: Question Three - What Will be Different?

In understanding the role of leadership and working to become a better leader there are five fundamental questions that warrant serious attention. These questions form the basis of a structured reflection that can help leaders focus, identify their priorities and determine how to excel in their chosen field. Leadership might occasionally happen by chance but it is not sustainable without conscious effort and applied learning.

The five fundamental questions for any leader are:- What Do You Stand For? Why Should They Follow You? What Will Be Different? Who's On Your Side? Who Listens When You Speak?

What Will Be Different? - The essence of leadership is change. This is its central function and, some would say, its only reason for existence. You don't need a leader to take you somewhere you've been before and you don't employ leaders to keep things the same. There is a subtle but hugely significant emphasis in the wording of the question itself. It is not "What needs to change?" it is not "What is changing?" it is a question that speaks to the desired end result - the tangible difference that will exist when change has happened. The thing that will exist which doesn't exist at this time. The end state that will signify that change has happened.

You might call this the vision but the problem with that over-used word is it becomes a licence for vagaries and poetic phraseology - "To become the organisation of choice for our most valued customers whilst operating in an environmentally responsible way and respecting the diversity, values and dignity of our employees" might well be on some organisation's wall somewhere but it doesn't actually say what will be different.

As a leader, then, it's really important for you to get a clear picture of your desired end results - the real meaning of vision or objectives. This is the destination; this is the picture of the new world. The term "picture" is not an accidental choice of word. If you can't picture it then chances are your potential supporters and followers won't either. Result: No one is quite sure what's going to be different and what their part is in achieving it. Martin Luther King's famous "I Have A Dream" speech from 1962 is full of rich imagery that describes what he is fighting to have in place. "I have a dream that little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character"

So, the task is to find a way to clearly describe, in a down to earth non-management speak way, what it is you're trying to create, what will be in place that will say to you and to others that your efforts have borne fruit and your vision has become reality. This is the power of answering the simple but fundamental question "What Will Be Different?" and laying one of the foundations for leadership.

Clive is co-owner of ClearWorth , a company specialising in bespoke manager, leader and team development for major organisations around the world. Clive lives in the UK and France and works all over the world from Ohio to Oman, London to Lagos, Chatham to Chengdu. Clive thinks, teaches and writes about negotiation, influence, interpersonal relationships and cross cultural communication.

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1 comment:

  1. Great Blog! Definitely leaders can be great with different innate characteristics as well.
    And there is no single small skill set that defines the perfect leader or guarantees success. Everyone is born with a unique set of natural abilities. And all of us can develop skills and styles to complement those natural abilities.