Simon Sinek once said “every company knows what they do. A little fewer know how they do it. Even fewer know why they do what they do.” It is the companies that know why they do what they do that are rare and often long-lasting. They often see the greatest productivity, profits, and lowest turnover rates. Their staff are passionate, loyal, and have an intimate connection to their work. This loyalty is not easy to come by. It takes time and plenty of investing in employees to have such a company. Their mission is the mission of their staff. Innovation is more abundant in these companies, and it is remarkable to watch them function. However, even the greatest of visions have required consistent reminders of the purpose. This loyalty needs support, as even the most loyal need to be reminded of what they believe in.
As human beings, when we do something repeatedly, we can very easily lose sight of the deeper meaning. Just as a religious individual performs rituals, there are times when the purpose of the ritual is present in their mind. Other times they are simply going through the motions. Similarly, the vast majority of companies view jobs as “going through the motions.” We have all heard and said “I’m just here for the paycheck.” At these times we are disconnected from the purpose of the job.
And at these times, we need someone who can bring us back to the purpose of what we do. These people are true leaders. They are the ones who stand as reminders of purpose and inspire those under their care.
In this article, we will discuss the most important trait of a true leader. We will discuss how this trait helps develop a passionate workforce, and how leaders require this trait to inspire those under their care. This trait is vision.
In order to be able to lead, you need to be able to not just know where you are wanting to go, and are able to tell others about the destination. Leaders are able to envision the future of the company; not an increase in profits, but what the world will look like due to the actions of the company. These leaders are able to articulate the purpose of the company beyond making a profit. The purpose of a truly successful company such as Apple, Microsoft or Google is always focused on how they want to impact the world and improve the lives of others. Because of this, their business becomes a part of their customer’s identities. Leaders are connected to the purpose of their company, because their purpose and sense of fulfillment is the same as the business. In other words, these leaders believe what the company believes, thus they act as an example of what that envisioned future looks like. They are able to breathe life into the purpose of the company and give that vision to their staff and co-workers.
Leaders do exactly what their label describes: they lead. And in order to lead, they must be on the forefront of their team. Just as a guide brings others to the final destination, caring for them and protecting them in the foreign environment, a leader blazes the trail and guides their staff and co-workers through the unknowns in their business toward the future they have envisioned. They do not stand apart from their staff, shouting orders and driving people forward. Instead, true leaders take risks and offer a path for others by creating it themselves. In business, these risks come in the form of reorganization of staff responsibilities, using alternative motivation techniques, and pursuing ideas that act as examples of the purpose of the company.
It is important to note that simply taking risks is not always an example of true leadership. Decisions and risks that show leadership must do two things: First, they must be pursuing a better environment for their staff. These leaders understand that the most important asset to the company is their staff. Due to this, every action taken must take into account the staff’s strengths. Alternative actions that do not utilize the strengths of the staff acts as a disservice to not only the staff not being fully utilized, but also acts as a disservice to the company through lower fulfillment and production rates and a disservice to the customers. The life of the staff will be sucked out of the company and the passion that creates staff and customer loyalty dies. Any steps to change the functioning of the company must first focus on their staff.
The second requirement is to take risks that propel the company toward the founding purpose. Anyone can make a risky choice. One can risk their money on a stock they know nothing about, or take a chance on a prospective employee without speaking to references. However, for the risk to mean anything, it must be intimately connected to the vision and purpose of the company. A leader who takes these risks in pursuit of the company’s beliefs and purpose acts as an example for their staff. They show their staff a vision of what could be. They inspire others into action and their staff follow that vision.
Leadership takes many skills and continual effort. However, if a leader is not able to provide vision and direction to their staff, there is no amount of coordination and delegation that will be able to make the company profitable. Human Resources should take steps to ensure that IT staff are aware of the ways to report misconduct, and have a system in place to protect employees when they do come forward.
Vision is the foundation of anyone’s ability to lead. A company must know their purpose; why they do what they do. Otherwise, true leaders will come and go and innovative change will be left behind only to be found by a company driven by purpose.
Lorna Hegarty, an Internationally Certified Master Coach, is the author of “The Seven Essential Practices of Great Leaders”. She is the President of LCH Resources Limited, a Human Resources Coaching and Consulting Organization.