Recently, I've been working with a large manufacturing client on its leadership development initiatives. The firm, while successful by most standards, has a thirst to get even better. Its leaders are focusing on improving their company culture and the ways they go about the process of leading.
We're several months into the work at the firm, and one very interesting concept has come to the fore: The implementation of preemptive change is about desire. Or, as one senior leader proffered at a recent executive steering committee meeting, "Ya' gotta wanna do it."
I love this statement: "Ya' gotta wanna do it!" It's a straightforward way to summarize an otherwise elegant management philosophy -- one that connotes desire, focus, and a commitment to change.
In the interest of furthering this theory, let me propose five basic leadership principles we can use to form the backbone of the "Ya' gotta wanna do it" philosophy:
1. Leadership is a choice. Rise to the occasion or let someone else take charge.
Sometimes the need to lead is thrust upon you. When this happens, you can rise to the occasion or let someone else take charge. If you choose to rise to the occasion, do it deliberately and with forethought of action. Don't just wing it.
To begin to fold this into your leadership approach, work to be more deliberate in your actions to demonstrate the kinds of proactive behavior that you want your leaders to bring to their teams. Whenever possible, strike up conversations about desired behaviors and your commitment to give your team whatever they need to be successful.
2. Never rest on your laurels.
To keep the level of achievement high and growing, it's important to invest in capability improvement for tomorrow even as you continue to focus on execution and performance today. The leadership team at Amazon, for example, never rest on their laurels. That's why the company continues to grow and capture market share.
If all of your effort goes only into delivering near-term results, you will plateau -- and risk your competitors' speeding past you. Invest your energy every day in building the capabilities you need now and for the future.
3. Give your team the "why" they need to commit to change.
Indeed, your team need to be invested in bringing their best to bear every day in service to the company, its customers, and its stakeholders. Help them make the commitment necessary to create needed changes by making the prospects of the future so compelling and irresistible that your people want nothing more than to get there.
Practice putting this idea into use at team meetings. Help your direct reports envision the new opportunities that the achievement of a change would offer to them. Make it "real," so they will commit to making it happen.
4. Dedicate yourself to learning new things.
Ensuring that you're prepared to execute your leadership responsibilities requires awareness of your limitations as well as your strengths. Actively work to add to what you know and to discover new approaches to problem solving.
Reach out to individuals in your professional network who hold, or have held, your role or a similar role in other companies. Share ideas and approaches for solving problems. Joining special interest groups through social media sites like LinkedIn can be an inexpensive place to start.
5. Put parochial interests aside for the greater good of the company.
While pursuing parochial interest is part of the human condition, when selfishness seeps into the work environment, it will have a negative impact on company performance and results -- and limit what you're willing to do.
If you make it your business to understand the needs of the departments and teams you work with and then charge your team to determine what you -- and they -- can do to make those other departments and teams more effective, you will begin to put this idea in place.
To close, the adoption of the "Ya' gotta wanna do it" philosophy is worth considering. It cuts to the root cause of one's resistance to change -- desire. After all, we can't make others change a thing. They have to find the commitment in themselves to make changes happen.
Leaders are no exception. They gotta wanna do it too.