A few years ago two researchers launched a huge project that surveyed tens of thousands of people residing in various organizations around the world, asking the question: “What do you look for and admire in a leader?” The answers that came back were amazingly well focused of two attributes:
1.) Honesty – The number one requirement of a leader mentioned by an overwhelming percentage of respondents was honesty; they want a leader to be brutally objective and open with their thoughts, beliefs, and reactions to ideas.
2.) Forward Looking – The second most important attribute, with over 70% of respondents mentioning it, was focus on the future.
Assuming for a moment that honesty is a given (a big but important assumption), the research went further into the issue of what “forward looking” really meant. Here are the four components which the research suggested employees expect a leader to follow:
1.) Allocate Time to Develop a Plan for the Future – Employees play back that most leaders never do this; instead they spend the majority of their time each day micromanaging the current business model, making sure the current crisis is handled thoroughly.
2.) Look to Employees to Help in Developing the Plan – Many leaders make the unfortunate assumption that they as individuals must be visionaries. That is not what the employees want; they want to help the organizations and its leader understand the current situation, the important trends and technologies that will impact the future, and the best alternative for achieving success in the future.
3.) Clarity on How the Plan Will be Achieved – Along with clarity about what the plan is designed to achieve, employees need to know the detailed actions for making it happen. This typically involves re-organizing, putting key personnel in key jobs, and the establishment of specific goals and measures for the various part of the organization.
4.) Constant Communications – On an ongoing basis, the leader needs to communicate the status of things, review any course corrections that are being made and why, and provide an updated timetable.
There is nothing really surprising coming out of this research, but it is a great reminder of what it takes to inspire an organization and lead it to achieve a significant impact.