You might think that the biggest danger of leadership is for a leader to look around and realize there is no one following. But, even worse than a team who won't follow you is a team who thinks they are following you, but they are moving in the wrong direction.
You motivated your team by tapping into their internal drive and they are now racing toward the goal, but, wait! It's the wrong goal.
How does this happen? How does a team get off track and head toward the wrong goal? The answer is simple: Leadership.
Leadership 101 tells us that to be a leader, you need a team. A team simply defined is a group of people with a shared purpose.
Whether that shared purpose is improving the user experience on a new software program or leading a team of teachers in improving student outcomes doesn't really matter. It's a team, trying to reach a goal.
Annihilating Leadership's Biggest Danger
If a team already has a shared purpose, why do they need a leader?
This question gets us to the heart of the biggest danger of leadership - pursuing the wrong goal. A team needs a leader to keep them focused on the RIGHT shared purpose, i.e. the RIGHT goal.
It is not uncommon for a team with a weak leader to decide that their purpose is something other than the goals that align with the organization's goals. Sometimes this occurs when a team does not agree with the company's core beliefs or the team may think the company's goal doesn't align with the company's professed core beliefs.
In this situation, the leader must realign the team to the company's direction.
If recent decisions of higher-ups seem incongruent with the company's previous direction, then you must provide a rational explanation to your team for the seeming misalignment. Your job as the leader is to understand the bigger picture and articulate that to your team in a way that is meaningful and keeps them focused on the positive impact that they can make.
It's also not uncommon for the goal to change but the change is never communicated to the front-liners who are doing the work. So a team creates work products or processes that do not align with the updated goal.
Consider this scenario: A marketing team spends many hours creating social media videos to help sell a new product for the company. Meanwhile, others in the company make significant changes to the product. BUT, the leadership in marketing never tells the marketing team about the changes.
Shared purpose, motivation full-steam ahead - wrong goal.
The result? Wasted time and a team that is now behind schedule for the product launch. This also leads to a demoralized team that feels like they are not valued enough to receive important updated information that affects their work.
Avoid the Dangers of Misaligned Goals
Leadership is critical in making sure that the team knows where to go and as that direction changes, pivots the rest of the team around to change as well.
Consider the rails on a roller coaster and how they keep the passengers following in the right direction as the coaster careens around corners or even flips upside-down. A leader, too, must keep the team on-track, through all the ups and downs and turns.
Your job is to know the direction that your team should be going at all times and to clearly communicate that direction, and any changes in direction, for your team.
No one likes surprises. Except, of course, those who ride roller coasters?
We need leaders because sometimes the team's purpose isn't clearly communicated or understood by everyone on the team. Sometimes a team's purpose changes or organizations form new teams for a new purpose.
At the core of our reason for leading, is our responsibility to help our team understand our shared purpose and pursue the path that fulfills that purpose. Make sure that the path you lead them on is the path to the most up-to-date goal.
As changes occur, process the changes, consider how it affects your team and communicate the changes in a timely manner, so that your team can change course, adapt the plan and keep moving forward.
Goals change and sometimes they change without much notice. Stay positive, communicate clearly and keep your eye on the goal. You'll make a positive difference AND avoid one of the greatest dangers in leadership.
Keep your team aligned to the goal.
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