Excellence and leadership does not involve itself with tactics. Tactics are important, don’t get me wrong, but they are not the focus of the leader. Leaders delegate tactics and remain focused on strategy. Strategy like vision and outlook, concerns itself with the end result. With vision, tactics become a means to an end, not the end in themselves. Too often we cannot see the proverbial forest for the trees. We can and often do get ourselves lost in the forest without strategy and planning. Here are a few things that a leader may want to focus on instead.
Knowing when to pick a battle is important. We must remember that we can lose the battle but still win the war. Not agreeing over methods and means is certainly preferable to not agreeing on the goal. A leader needs to understand people and their motivations for goal attainment. It is not enough that everyone understands and agrees on the goal; leaders need to understand the motivations of team members for attaining that goal. Leaders are not only keepers of values and ideals (the goals), leaders must also know each team member and what motivates them then pick battles and find a way to accommodate and achieve.
There comes a time to understand what Carey means when he says that “agency is acting a certain way for a reason.” We need to understand that reason. A number of years ago, I worked in a transitional mental health program and we had a cantankerous foul mouthed aggressive man in his 60’s. He would harass the female residents on a daily basis and be extremely vulgar and suggestive towards them. We tried to be understanding and intervene in gentle ways because we knew he had sustained a head injury during the Vietnam War and we knew that frontal lobe injuries often changed people. Normally subdued, kind people could become aggressive and vulgar. One day there was a surprise visit from his family and after that visit we discussed his behaviors and our concerns. The family member’s response was something to the effect of “no, that’s not it. He just really has always been a jerk - even before the head injury.” We need to understand the motivations of others, and then with that understanding, leaders pick battles and strategize to navigate the path to goal achievement
Delegation is a key part of planning. Have a look at this discussion about delegation http://managementhelp.org/leadingpeople/delegating.htm. As a young manager in business and a leader in organizations I really struggled with this one because it was always easier for me to do things myself then to learn to manage projects and lead people. Even now, when a situation becomes stressful, I have to fight my urge to get over involved and micro manage. Leaders delegate effectively. If you struggle as I do with this, make a goal to improve in this area and seek the support of your mentor.
Leading for excellence is about mentoring and more important making mentorship a part of the strategy of leading for excellence. Mentoring is near and dear to my heart. Check out http://managementhelp.org/leadingpeople/mentoring.htm. The role of a mentor is a key ingredient in breeding new leaders. Every professional needs a mentor. Leaders mentor future leaders.
As time goes on we will discuss these areas more in depth, but spend some time considering the difference between tactics and strategy. The realm of leadership is about seeing farther than tactics can lead you. Tactics are essential but must be the role of someone else.