Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

Are You Creating Value Through Your Leadership?

Creating-value-through-leadership

One of the things I enjoy in writing about leadership is looking out for new insights into how we can become a better leader to those we serve, as well as discovering new examples that can help to illustrate what those measures might look like in action. The most recent example of this came courtesy of my daughter Alya’s dance recital, a show she had to participate in as part of her dance class curriculum.

Now granted, as her father it’s only natural that my focus and attention would be on watching my daughter and being dazzled by her performance. But outside of that typical parental pride, there was one thing that was unmistakable about Alya’s performance – as she danced on that stage, it was clear to everyone that she was having fun.

What was particularly noteworthy about this is that in openly expressing her joy while she danced – irrespective of whether she was the best dancer on stage or not – she actually made her performance that much more enjoyable because her emotional expressiveness drew the audience in. Indeed, after the show, a few of the other parents came up to me to pass along a message to Alya about how much they enjoyed her dance because they appreciated the obvious enthusiasm she brought to the stage.

Hearing these comments made me realize that this is something leaders tend to overlook or fail to take into consideration regarding not only how they communicate to their employees, but also what efforts they make to better relate to those under their care.

More specifically, as leaders, we know the value of the vision or the change initiatives we want to push through our organization. But how many of us can say that our employees see and understand the value behind our collective efforts as well?

In looking at the various studies on employee morale and engagement levels in today’s workplaces, the answer to this question is pretty obvious, and not a very encouraging one. And while there are a number of issues at play that need to be dealt with to address these persistent anemic levels in employee engagement, there is one factor that we often overlook, especially as our time and attention continues to fragment in response to leading within today’s interconnected, 24/7 global community.

Over the course of the past decade, we’ve come to learn that to motivate our employees through fear or incentives is not sustainable. That if we really want to achieve the kind of successes and achievements of those organizations and leaders we admire, we need our employees to care about our vision as much as we do.

And yet, what we often fail to act on is the fact that if we want our employees to be fully engaged in the shared purpose that defines our organization, we need to first start with ourselves. We need to exude and exemplify in our own unique way the passion and excitement we have for the future we want our employees to help us to create.

We need to recognize that we can’t expect our employees to dedicate their discretionary efforts to our shared purpose if they don’t see us doing the same ourselves before we ask them to.

In terms of the long view, this also means that we have to move beyond the extrinsic motivators of fear and incentives and instead, create an environment where our employees are not simply engaged in the work they do, but remain motivated to keep pushing themselves even when we achieve those levels of success we all aspire to attain.

Of course, to compel our employees to show up to work with this kind of an attitude requires that we start first with ourselves, with being honest and aware of the impact our own attitude has on informing our employees of what we truly value.

After all, if we’re not passionate about the vision we have for our organization, if we don’t see the obstacles our organization faces as opportunities for us to challenge our assumptions of what we’re truly capable of, if we don’t care about the realities of what’s going on in our workplace, how can we expect our employees to care about what we want to accomplish?

How can we expect them to willingly commit their discretionary efforts – their talents, their experiences, and creativity – to our shared purpose if we lack this connection with them?

It is an axiom of leadership that those under our care look to our actions and words to understand what really matters to us; of what our real priorities are and what we want to achieve.

As such, it becomes clear why we need to recognize the importance of expressing through both our actions and words the value we see in achieving our vision or change initiatives. As we move beyond the command-and-control style of leadership, it becomes critical that we’re able to exemplify how we value the shared purpose that defines why we do what we do so that those we lead can share in that sense of value and meaning.

Granted, our sense of what we value is not derived from external factors, but from our own internal motivations; of what matters to us and makes us feel like we’re able to contribute in a meaningful fashion, if not also feel a sense of belonging with those we share this value with.

That’s why it’s important that we connect what we value – what is critical to our organization’s shared purpose – with what matters to our employees. We have to make sure that we create bridges between what’s vital to our organization’s long-term viability and what would make our employees feel like they can make a meaningful contribution to that outcome.

In so doing, we can help fuel that fire in the belly of our employees that makes them hungry to achieve the vision we set before them; that our employees can feel like what they’re committing their talents, creativity, and insights to is something worth pursuing, something that only they can achieve, and something from which everyone can derive a sense of meaning and purpose.

The truth is we all want to feel useful; we want to know that we bring value to a purpose or vision that’s bigger than ourselves. And the only way we can engender those feelings is not by assuming that what we value is the same as what those under our care value. Rather, it’s by reaching out to connect with those we lead to understand what drives their internal motivations – what would make them feel like they can make a difference – and connect those aspirations to the goals we have for our organization.

There’s no question that this isn’t easy, nor should it be because leadership is not about taking the easy road or serving our own self-interests. Instead, it’s about committing ourselves to guiding those we lead towards creating a future we all not only want to live in, but one which we all desire to be an active participant in creating.

Watching my daughter dance on that stage, I was reminded that it’s not enough to assume that because we commit ourselves to an endeavour that those around us will understand the value and importance of what we’re trying to create.  Rather, it is our responsibility to demonstrate to those we lead the sense of value we see in what we’re trying to create through our collective efforts and consequently, what they will gain by joining us in the pursuit of achieving that which defines our shared purpose.

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4 Comments » | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | June 17, 2014 by |

4 Comments
  1. On June 23rd, 2014 at 8:54 AM Bob Brady said:

    Great article. There are lots of simple reasons why any organisation should measure a leaders' value. There’s just no clear consensus on how to do it. The larger issue is whether the leader has put the company on a firmer footing than he or she found it. But it should go beyond the measures of personal contributions to their investments in people over the longer term.

  2. On June 26th, 2014 at 2:17 AM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Bob; I'm glad you enjoyed it. And I concur that the value a leader creates should not be limited to what they contribute personally, but how they've helped those they lead to excel and thrive to the point that they can continue without them.

  3. On June 24th, 2014 at 3:04 PM Bob Bennett said:

    Love the story. reminded me of watching my granddaughter's first dance/gymnastics recital. We were all allowed, when our child was on, to go to the foot of the stage to take pictures. You bet I was there and even though she was the youngest (and close to the worst) in the group, the family was all there taking pictures, smiling and encouraging. She tried her best which impressed no one but us.

    The lady sitting next to me, when her daughter went on, and I volunteered to get up so she could pass more easily replied, "No thanks, my daughter isn't very good." Watching her daughter, it was true, but there was no life in her eyes, no passion for what she was doing. It was a chore. Sometimes a leaders reaction and opinion can become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

  4. On June 26th, 2014 at 2:37 AM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Wow, that's such a heartbreaking story, Bob. I can only imagine how this girl felt seeing her mother's lack of interest in her efforts compared to the response of other parents like you.

    It's also a great example of how easily we can extinguish the drive and ambition of those under our care to not only challenge their assumptions but to encourage them to exceed their own expectations of what they can achieve.

    Thanks for sharing your story with us, Bob. Appreciate it, my friend.

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