Recently I read The Leader Architect by business leader Jim Grew. It was a practical guide written by someone who has clearly wrestled with the issues facing many leaders. In one section of the book, he discussed the need to reduce the power between leaders and followers. I reached out to ask if we could excerpt that section with his permission as I believe it is insightful:
Reducing the Power Gap
The doorway to change is reducing the power gap and the communications gap between you the leader and your people.
Here are five steps you can take to reduce the power gap in your organization.
Get over your title.
It’s an invitation to contribute, not a statement of rank. Colin Powell, one of the highest-ranking generals in the United States, said, “The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.” If you imagine yourself as helper instead of leader, you’re off to a good start.
That ability looms in the background of all employees, but it is of tiny consequence to the business. It is not an element of leadership; it’s emotional blackmail. If you rely on it, you’ll get the response of people who feel blackmailed—all defense and no initiative. Usually, if you must fire a person, it’s your failure for hiring them or not training them. Occasionally, folks self-select out, but not often.
Apply railroad leadership.
When you walk around, stop, look, and listen (especially listen). You don’t have to produce brilliant anything, other than thanks.
Tom Pandola and Jim Bird’s new book Light a Fire Under Your Business is unlike most business books you will read. The authors not only share practical business principles, but they do it through a combination of business and fire-fighting experience. Whether fighting a fire in a building or one ranging outside, these two veteran firefighters share their experiences and apply the principles in a clever way that gets your attention. Firefighting requires teamwork, flawless execution and commitment.
I recently had the opportunity to talk with Tom about the book and his advice to build a culture and a team. Tom Pandola is a director of communications in the air medical transportation industry. He is also a cofounder of Third Alarm, a leadership consulting company. Pandola’s work experience includes 25 years with the Los Angeles City Fire Department where, as a fire captain and battalion chief, he tested inspirational leadership principles while solving problems associated with responding to fires, floods, riots, and earthquakes.
Step one: I look at the process that is already in place. Does it provide our workforce with all that they need to execute properly and in a timely manner? If not, I would look at either developing a new process or just adjusting the current one to be more supportive of those involved.
Step 2: Are individuals empowered?
Step two: If a lack of execution is not found to be a process issue, then I will look at the individuals involved. Do they feel as though they are empowered and authorized to take the appropriate actions? Sometimes there has been a lack of communications or a miscommunication that causes people to feel less than accountable. I would correct whatever the issue that is found to be causing the lack of execution. This would include the last resort, which is to discipline individuals if it turns out they have made a conscious decision not to follow the process or to not take actions that they are authorized to take.
Step 3: Are behaviors infused in the culture?
Step three: This step gets to the core question about developing a culture of execution. When leadership continuously engages in process improvement and personnel empowerment, they are working on the culture of the organization. I believe that it takes leaders coming together to define the things that they believe will improve execution – and then work at infusing the desired behaviors into the culture.
An example from the fire service is the need to provide every member of the department with the right process and feeling of empowerment to get the right things done, for the right reasons, and at the right time. This is necessary because the fire service is a 24/7/365 operation, and the top leaders cannot be present when most of the work of their department is taking place. So in order to give the “right things” meaning, the leadership developed meaningful mission, vision, and values statements that serve to drive decision making at all levels of the organization.
This is the first step I recommend every organization take. Bring the leadership together and write a meaningful mission statement that defines, in the simplest way, your organization’s core purpose. This will provide your workforce with the basis for their thoughts and actions. Then write a vision statement that illustrates a desired future. This provides each individual the knowledge of executing their duties in a way that contributes to that vision. And finally, each work team should develop a set of values that they feel help them execute their unique duties with a high level of success.