How To Align Your Leadership
In a study conducted by Leadership IQ in the last year revealed that only 29% of employees see their leaders as aligned with their organizations’ values.
That leaves an enormous majority — 71% — of leaders are not aligned with the organization they claim to support and represent.
Why is there such a disconnect in leadership across the board? And how can leaders correct the plague of misalignment to get their organization synchronized?
There are a myriad of reasons why leaders don’t willingly comply with their company’s core values and mission, and some of the most common are below:
- Authority Position — these leaders feel above the law as they assume (and usually manipulate the system so) that no one will challenge their authority
- Higher Earnings — there are certain leaders whose salary and stock options are the goal, and all else is secondary
- “Peter Principle” — when a leader tends to get over their head as they ascend, they will forsake what got them there in order to hold onto their position
- Played the Part — many leaders are “wolves in sheeps clothing”, feigning alignment just to work their way up the corporate ladder
- Know It All — these are the types of leaders who think they have it all figured out — hence their ascendancy in the organizational ranks — and feel their decision making alone is the right path
When leaders show their true colors in exhibiting misaligned behaviors, the aligned leadership needs to react immediately to remedy the error, which usually involves separation of the misaligned individual(s) to keep core values intact. Delay in keeping skewed leadership on the roster will allow such toxic leadership to erode away the organization quickly in an ever accelerating fashion from the inside out.
But how does a leader work towards keeping themselves aligned with their company’s culture to ensure they don’t go astray? Many start off innocent enough but allow themselves to adopt a false thought process becuase it’s worked for others ahead of them.
Here are some practices to adopt both in mindset as well as behavior that will keep you aligned:
- Leave Yourself Open To Accountability. Our world is replete with people from all walks of life — politicians, journalists, business people, church leaders, community organizers and such — who will never admit error or missteps let alone placing checks and balances that hold themselves accountable along with everyone else. A great leader will allow dissenting opinions without any ramifications, a pathway and process to allow their work (budget, closed door meetings, decisions) to be verified. Ensuring others can hold you to account, and in line, also builds a great deal of trust.
- Create an Inverted Review Process. Very rarely, if ever, will a leader or organization create a process to allow the employees to review their leaders, instead of those that the leaders report to (CEO, board, etc). The handful of companies that have used this process as the only method for promotions see a cultural dynamic where leaders work to ensure their people are treated respectfully with clear voice and value. It develops a culture in which leaders need, and start to desire, their people to succeed across the board.
- Be Self-Aware. Self-awareness is having a brutally honest assessment with yourself on what your weak areas are; areas where you will easily stumble. This is an area where you’ll most likely need a mentor and accountability partner to help suss out where you might be fooling yourself. We all have behaviors that we are blinded to, and knowing them — as well as being willing to work on them — become a key component in growing as an effective and trustworthy leader.
- Always Be Willing To Learn. The one thing that is constant is change. Even the speed of change is never constant, in fact seemingly always to be accelerating. What a leader knew last year, or 3 months ago, is almost always rendered obsolete at some point. A leader who knows that they don’t, and will never, know everything has every advantage over a leader who claims to know it all and have everything figured out. Staying fresh by learning, and developing a thirst to take time to learn at every opportunity keeps a person humble and open to input — even from their front line employees.
- Review Your Culture and Core Values Daily. Like any instrumentation for measuring, leaders tends to get off course from time to time, naturally and unwillingly, without any ill intention. And just like instrumentation, leaders need to be re-calibrated often. By reviewing your core values and cultural beliefs to yourself, and especially with others in an open format, you can ensure you keep that culture top of mind to guide your thinking, which leads to your behaviors being aligned as well.
While many leaders develop an intentional path to forsake being aligned with their company, some inadvertently stray unconsciously and drift away before they know it. Some may even find themselves in a pattern they cannot undo. By adopting these practices you can help ensure that yourself and others have the necessary guardrails to keep from drifting, and safeguards to separate those leaders who willingly jump the fences.
Keeping aligned is a daily intentional effort all great leaders work towards purposely.