How to take command and make your company great

Great leaders don't demand respect; they command it through their character and performance. Ambit's Bob Nunnally explains the three core commitments leaders need to make raise the bar for themselves and their companies.

I have found great leaders don’t demand respect; they command it through their character and performance. They are passionate about the organization’s mission, understand the needs of their team, and have the confidence and skill to succeed when challenges arise.

Being “in command” is a mindset. It is embracing responsibility and accountability for the mission and the people, and knowing how to navigate both the science of management and the art of leadership to deliver success.

As we kickoff 2014, how many of your New Year’s resolutions center on improving business performance, being a more effective leader or advancing in your career? All of these goals can be accomplished by taking command within your area of responsibility, and pursuing, with passion and focus, these three core commitments to your organization:

  • Charting the path
  • Enhancing the culture
  • Communicating the solutions

Charting the Path

The foundational commitment is the ability to chart a clear path for your organization – where you want to go. Ask yourself this question: What is my vision?

You must understand where you want the organization to go – today and, for planning purposes, in three to five years – and you must be able to articulate the vision concisely to your team.

Maybe it is increased profitability through reduced costs. Maybe it is being recognized as the model for IT performance in the federal space. Regardless of your level within the enterprise, you, as the person in charge of your area of responsibility, must be the one to set the course.

Setting the course is only the first step. If you cannot communicate your vision, you have little chance of building a team and producing the behaviors necessary to deliver success. Take a very simplistic analogy – not clearly communicating a vision is a bit like pulling up to a curb and asking someone to get in the car to take a drive.  If we cannot, or worse will not, communicate where we are headed and why, it is unlikely we can get the right folks to climb aboard and even more unlikely we can keep them on board when the inevitable stresses arise.

As leaders – people taking command of our organizations – we need a vision and we need to communicate it with our team to deliver success. Without a vision, we are not leaders, but merely caretakers of the organization.

Enhancing the Culture

With a vision in hand, we need to create a positive culture where we will successfully execute operations. Since culture comes from shared values, ask yourself this question: what are our values?

The values we establish within our organization drive operations. As individuals it’s our values that drive our decision making and how we proceed in life. If I value honesty, then I will decide and act based on that value. The same is true for our organizations.

In the absence of direct supervision, our staffs act according to the values our organization has established. As leaders we need to define those values, we need to ensure those values are engrained in all we do and, most importantly, we need to live them ourselves.

In my opinion there are two values that, regardless of your mission, are critical to success – integrity and mutual support.  Integrity requires facing and properly dealing with the mistakes that will occur, and mutual support demands we give and accept honest feedback.  Instilling these values across your organization will create a positive culture of mutual respect that will drive strong employee decision making.

Communicating the Solutions

Every organization has a hierarchical structure; it is the way tough decisions get made. But making a decision is only half of the responsibility; the other half is communicating it. Every decision makes up a solution that will reinforce, or undermine, our ability to move the organization forward. To be an effective leader, those solutions must be communicated across the organization, from the top to the bottom.

Strong communication leads to trust (an important value), and that communication starts with leaders. Too often we share the decision, but not key, influencing information behind it.

The information on why we won’t pursue an opportunity or the metrics that led us to change the work schedule is evidence we can use to reinforce our vision and our values. To drive performance, we need our team to support, or at least understand, our solutions. We need them to be able to come to us with questions on our decisions and we need to welcome an open dialogue on how the solution will move us forward.

These three core commitments can help you take command of your organization in 2014.

This combination of guidance and engagement builds confidence within your team, allows them to properly see and focus on the organization’s priorities, and delivers leadership that inspires great performance.

Perhaps the best way to sum it up is by a timeless quote from John Quincy Adams, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

That’s command!

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