In times of constant change and ongoing uncertainty, it’s easy for leaders to get caught up into thinking their role is to just keep people’s energy and focus alive in all of the chaos. One of the greatest challenges leaders face is preventing their employees from feeling stuck or paralyzed in the current situation. Leaders need to shift their own energy to help people move forward in the context of opportunity, even while times are tough. This energy shift won’t happen automatically; rather, leaders must make a conscious, intentional shift. Leaders play a key role in harnessing the energy of their followers to not just ride out this current situation but to help the organization create a new reality that allows it to succeed in the future.
The Leader’s Purpose
Ultimately you will not be judged so much by how well you lead, but by how well you are followed.
The purpose of a leader is to engage others to commit their full energy toward the creation of value and success. Followers show up every day with energy, be it positive, negative, or somewhere in between. They choose the degree to which they give their energy to their job, customers, and coworkers. Key to leadership is engaging followers to choose to commit their full energy. Consider the statistic that, on average, (a whopping) 69% of employee satisfaction and performance is attributable to the action of the work unit leader. Leaders play a unique role with each one of their followers, and it can be a powerful one that ultimately erodes or contributes to the creation of value and success for the organization, its customers, the work team, and leaders themselves.
So how do leaders best contribute to, not erode, the creation of value and success?
Essence and Form Needed to Harness Full Energy
Character-based (or essence) leadership refers to what is at the core; those qualities of a leader that are driven from the inside out. Essence is about purpose, values, beliefs, and vision. It is who the leader wants to BE to his or her followers—the example the leader wants to set. Form refers to what a leader DOES—behaviors and actions taken that demonstrate leadership competencies and often are driven by organizational rules and policies. Form comes from the outside in. It is the image or persona the leader creates.
While both essence and form are important, they need to be in balance. Often, if there is no integration between essence and form, a credibility gap appears and trust becomes an issue. Integrity is the integration between who one is and what one does—essence and form.
This idea of essence and form opens a dialogue with leaders—such as the true story cited below—to discover, define, and declare their leadership.
Based on a leadership foundation of declared philosophy, purpose, values, beliefs, strengths, and vision, character-based leadership requires an intentional shift in setting an example from the inside out. And that takes a large dose of both resiliency and courage. Let’s explore these notions further.