To lead, you must have an efficient method of investigating the social conditions surrounding you. If the check is correct, the way forward to act will naturally show itself.
The art of leadership is not as much to be a leader as to make people willing to follow you.
As collaboration is today an even stronger buzzword than leadership, it is important to underline that, despite that some of the words below may sound authoritative; the tips below do not apply only to autocratic environments! Such guidelines remain true for groups like business organizations, NGOs, families or even gangs. The concepts of collaboration and authority are not necessarily opposed.
Beware, too, that leadership is overstated nowadays and is far less necessary than supposed so. Leadership is to be used as changing the norms of a group, not making them more efficient. However, many companies are over-using the L word to boost the motivation of their people. An extensive use of the L word can be seen as a clue of a tentative action to “resurrect” the morale of an anomic* workforce.
As a final warning, you might not be able to follow the tips below for reasons beyond leadership and yourself. Indeed, the behavior of your own boss, your organization’s set-up or organizational policies may stop you in doing so.
So, here they are:
Maintain your position
Once in position, you will be able to do nothing to lead your group unless you have established yourself as a person from whom authoritative orders will naturally come. Again, authority in itself is not bad. It is how authority is used that can be good or bad.
Leave up to the norms of the group you lead
The norms, the recurrent behaviors accepted by your group, are not what you think they are or should be. What is important to your followers must be important to you.
This is one of the key of change management: As a leader you are embodiment of your group norms and if you don’t change, how can you expect anybody else to do? Show the way & walk the tightrope or fail.
You must originate interaction and take initiative. You act as the glue to your followers.
A group can be measured by its activities, its interactions & by the sentiments members have toward one another. Do your sociometrics.
Do not give orders that will not be obeyed
Your social position depends of the authority of your orders. When you give orders that are not obeyed, you undermine your position. Likewise, your followers will presume that your future orders will be questionable and thus potentially not obeyed. Nothing will create more confusion in their minds.
In giving orders, used established networks
If your direct reports’ orders are to be obeyed just as yours, you must maintain their social positions. This is done not only by your interaction through them but also by interacting with them. By asking for advice, you help establish their positions. However the decision must remain yours.
Do not drive upon your followers on social occasions
This is not a question of having caste system; which I am against. It is a question of informal bypass. If you mix frequently with your followers, they can demand you things without first going to your direct reports. Protect yourself from such demands.
However, this does not mean that you don’t interact with them.
The more members accept your decisions without questioning them, the more firmly your social rank must be established.
Do not blame or praise in public
You are not the only one determining the social rank of the members of your group: the opinions of the other members count for something too.
When you blame in public, you humiliate and put in doubt your own reputation for justice.
The last argument applies to praise too.
Take into consideration the total situation
In achieving its purposes, your group will change & will be affected by changes in its environment (physical & social), its materials, tools & techniques with which the group operates on its environment, its relations between members necessary for group action on the environment, its internal social relations & its norms. So, take a “drone’s view”.
Create the conditions in which the group will discipline itself
Don’t focus on punishment when discipline is required.
Take aside the person apparently responsible; ask him to explain how the mistake was made & how it can be avoided another time.
Treat the group as a group and not as a set of individuals.
While a follower naturally seeks interaction with a leader he admires, authority tends to cut down the same interaction. So, seek interaction with each of your followers, on a 1-by-1 basis.
When a follower comes to you, show a friendly interest & keep your mouth shut. That should be hard for someone used to giving orders. Don’t approve or disapprove of what is being said; just accept it.
Remember, a leader is told only what he wants to hear; therefore you must show that you want to hear everything.
The greatest barrier to free communication between follower & leader is the leader’s authority.
You are the greatest risk to the moving equilibrium** of your group and you must have self-control in a situation where control is difficult.
Self-knowledge is the first step in your self-control.
*: Anomy: Social instability caused by erosion of standards & values.
**: Equilibrium: A group is often seen as a static equilibrium, like a pendulum which stops moving. This interpretation of a group is too narrow. A group is a dynamic, moving equilibrium: see it more like the solar system.