Often a thankless task, but someone really has got to do it

It seems an obvious statement that organisations have hierarchical leaders, in title, in place, often ranked by seniority. It’s the way it has always been and, for the most part, it has worked.

However, over the past few years, a new type of organisation and leader has emerged. Fast-growing organisations recognised that a new, alternative approach to leading others was needed to help them deliver their growth journey.

Which is why leadership looks so different in these types of organisation. Often operationally minded team members fail to immediately understand that, the role of a leader in a fast growing organisation is completely different to that in a business that’s just plodding along.

It has been my experience that there are three factors that makes these new leaders standout.

1. Fast changing environments demand a new style of leadership

Fast-growing businesses are inherently different to any other type of organisation.

The demands of an ambitious workforce along with the need to balance operational responsibilities with strategic thinking, means that it is often difficult to lead others as effectively as they would like.

Fast action and execution is required to lead and manage growth in a fast changing and developing environment. Which means that their focus is often pulled towards balancing cash flow, monitoring financial risk and managing the investment needed to underpin their growth.

Time pressure and time management often means that they are not as visible within the business as they would like. As a consequence, they are often the last person in the business to hear about what is really going on at a grass routes level.

2. There is a price to pay for their success

Success on the growth journey will create further growing pains that are an inevitable outcome of moving the organisation forward. Success breed success and as is does it creates growing pains and pressure points throughout the organisation.

Organisational growth and the associated pain are symbiotic. You can’t avoid it, but great leaders plan for it. They explain that part of the journey, they inspire their management team and are there as a beacon of support and wisdom for middle managers and operational employees alike.

Processes can be introduced to help reduce the pain. However, predicting its arrival and efficiently dealing with it sets this new breed of leader apart.

3. They have their fingers on the pulse and both eyes on the road ahead

Improving the leadership capability starts by understanding the positive and negative trends likely to affect the performance of your company – at every level across every generation. And if you think you have a natural feel for what’s going on, I can tell you now that you don’t, because no one does.

However, there is a mass of available data on workplace attitudes, with really useful insight regarding what motivates and captures the attention of today’s multi-generational workforce. Great leaders take the time to digest this data and apply it to communications across their organisations. As they realise that without properly motivated teams, who understand precisely what the vision of the organisation is and how they are encouraged to play their part, the growth journey will stall.

Now more than ever, in this post-covid age, the true leaders are digesting the information regarding the changing work-place environment; and amending their growth programmes in line with the disruption and opportunities they saw coming at the start of the pandemic.

It’s when these three behaviours come together, combined with a deep understanding of how the workforce attitudes and workplace environment is evolving, that real growth starts to gain momentum.

As an illustration of the differences in attitudes to the workplace across the generations, the diagram below highlights just some of the important statistics leaders need to be aware of on their growth journey.

Great Leaders are really just great communicators

If you want to gain an insight into the big and often left field issues that have an affect on your people’s commitment to the growth journey then these, and other, surprising statistics are extremely important foundation for clear and motivational communications and leadership.

Leadership on your growth journey is far more than just character. You can possess all the qualities of a great leader, such as humility, humour and trust. However if you are unable to articulate or channel these qualities towards a meaningful goal or purpose, you will ultimately fail in your ambitions. As true leadership is defined by destination, direction and influence and the ability to weave these three elements into a great journey that everyone wants to be part of.

If you think about it, every leader of any successful company you can think of has excelled in these three areas. Where as leaders of struggling organisations are usually found to be lacking focus in one, two or all three of these areas.

Your growth test starts with just six steps

Starting your growth journey requires an understanding of the six tests facing you and your organisation. As well as identifying how people can individually play their part. You need to communicate your vision in a way that focuses upon a compelling vision (destination), a route map (direction) and your ability to inspire others (influence). However, before you can take those tests, a short six-step journey is required.

The six steps focus on the following

1. Getting people to sign up to your growth journey.
2. Producing a route map that clearly demonstrates how your growth will be achieved.
3. Obtaining buy-in and commitment from all those connected to the business.
4. Generating and maintaining a climate of performance and achievement throughout the organisation
5. Identifying and protect the systems, processes and people important to sustainable growth.
6. Developing of a confident, agile, empowering and high-performing workforce.

The use of these six steps, supported by a focus on destination, direction and influence will improve your leadership capability.

You will find that new ‘leaders without authority’ will emerge throughout the business and that their contribution will help to create a high-performance culture.

Their input will help your leadership team address the trends, issues and challenges facing the workforce demographic as you embark on your growth journey.

If you want to release the latent energy and momentum within your organisation, then remember that the role of the leader is not to inspire more followers on the journey, but to strengthen the business by creating more leaders.

That way you will successfully achieve your growth ambitions.

Above all, enjoy the transformation and journey!