There is no shortage of leadership definitions. In fact, a search on Amazon reveals well over 60,000 book titles on leadership, alone. No doubt many, if not all, of the authors hold and define their own description of the discipline.
At the risk of adding to this mix, I would like to discuss mine. My favorite definition of leadership was shared with me by my colleague, famed leadership author and MEDI Leadership executive coach Blaine Bartlett. In my many years of executive coaching, I have found that it resonates with leaders at all levels.
Leadership is creating coordinated movement.
That’s it. Too simple? There is beauty in that. We tend to make things complicated in life, in business, and especially in healthcare. In my opinion, healthcare holds the most complex leadership environment within an industry saddled with constancy of change.
Hence, I’d like to draw your attention to the word I have underlined in the above definition. This is the significant adjective for good leadership, especially in complex environments. Anyone can create movement, but good leaders created coordinated movement.
Coordinated movement of teams drive higher performance. And every leader I know is looking to create greater impact through higher performance.
There is, however, a caveat.
HOW you create coordinated movement is critical, so I’m going share a proven “how-to” method to do this, and to do it well.
Before you attempt this approach, it’s essential you take the time to understand your personal strengths, perceptions, and preferences. Self-awareness, leveraging your competencies (once you know them) and building muscle in areas that need improvement (once you acknowledge them), is a foundational leadership principle required to build trust and gain respect.
Without trust and respect, good leadership is impossible.
Once you have done the work and spent the time to become truly self-aware, and you are intentionally approaching your leadership rooted with that knowledge, then you are ready for the “how-to” approach of creating coordinated movement.
Step 1: Recognize Others’ Genius
Another reason I insist self-awareness is an imperative for great leadership is related to how you view others. Something interesting happens when you spend the time to understand competencies, style, and motivators. Beyond the benefit you get from understanding yourself, you start to apply your learnings in your relationships and interactions with others.
You now seek to truly understand your team members, your peers, and your own leaders. The blinders are removed, and you begin to recognize the unique brilliance of each person.
Be intentional with this. Spend time on it. Don’t just focus on tactical skills. Look deeply at the competencies each person holds. But, building trust upfront is necessary for this. You’ll only be offered others’ authentic selves when trust exists.
Assimilate the skills, competencies, and experiences of each person on your team, and you will start to recognize each individual’s genius. Once you find it, harness it. Leverage it. Let it shine by giving them permission to use their genius in their work.
Step 2: Create a Compelling Vision
Creating coordinated movement implies progress toward something. A point in time, a place, a vision. Without it, aligned directional improvement is impossible. Everyone will be aiming at something different.
As the leader, one of your primary responsibilities is to create vision. Make sure it is understood, clearly and consistently for everyone.
Some situational examples that require a compelling vision are:
Going through a merger: Communicate what the organization will look like upon completion, what values it will hold, what it will be called, why the is change important, and how it will benefit the employees, the community, and patients.
A major technology implementation: Tell those impacted why the change is important, what the end state will look like operationally and through care delivery, and communicate the benefits to the organization.
Moving toward population health: Help your team understand what it will look like. Describe how it fits in the broader healthcare market and why it is important. Explain how it works with your partners, within your community, and for your physicians.
In every vision-casting situation, be as specific and as complete as possible, but most importantly, be compelling. My only word of caution here is not to oversell. Falling short by creating false expectations will erode trust. Instead, uncover the compelling vision and honestly communicate it. Paint the picture. Literally, if you must. Discover your best way to align the players and get them looking in the same direction.
Step 3: Connect to their Passion
Igniting the passion of your team members is the final step to successfully creating coordinated movement.
Passion comes from one’s values aligning with those of the organization. Passion is a fulfillment, a purpose. I can honestly say with each person I’ve asked, everyone has shared a desire to be fulfilled.
Because of this, I believe the potential for passion exists within everyone. Your job as leader is to help your team members ignite that passion by finding fulfillment.
The trick to helping your team members find fulfillment is having successfully completed the first two steps in this how-to process. Once you have harnessed the genius of each individual, and then created a compelling vision, all that is left to do is connect the work of the genius to the compelling vision.
With this, you have defined their work as meaningful. The individual is fulfilled, and their passion for the work and the vision is ignited.
I covered much ground in this writing. To briefly summarize, great leadership is defined as creating coordinated movement. It requires the leader to invest in a journey of self-awareness, harness the genius of each person, create a compelling vision, and ignite passion in others.
Most importantly, this approach must be rooted in a foundation of trust and respect. Without it, the most, or the best, you can hope for is compliance.
For the transformational leader, compliance is never the prize. Compliance is the goal for the transactional manager.
The prize for transformational leaders is a high-performing team that creates meaningful impact for their patients and their communities.