Effective Leadership

by Olivier Herlin*

Leadership is a process, it is also the art of influencing and it is separated from a position or a title. In fact everyone in an organization is either a leader either a follower. When a manager/leader asks subordinates feedback about what can be improved in the procedure of their tasks, subordinates start to have a leadership role to play. What they will say will influence the manager in future decision making.

Therefore leadership is a shared process, confirming it is an influencing activity independent from a position or a title with formal authority. Leadership is everywhere.

To be effective, Leadership should be about creating Direction, Alignment and Commitment (CCL). Being a manager/leader requires influencing all subordinates to have them perform their assigned tasks according to the established procedures in order to achieve the defined objectives. But it should be a positive influence to have motivated, high performing associates or subordinates. Let’s take an example in protocol. A protocol officer in a large corporation whose job is to plan for the signing ceremony of a contract with new business partners will have to do it according to how the company wants him/her to perform that task. The members that will be part of the operational team to make this ceremony a successful one initiating a good lasting relationship between the partners need to be self-confident in order to do the best job possible. This can only be achieved if the protocol officer in charge has provided the team members with proper, clear and accurate directions on how to organize the ceremony. Only then, can the team members align themselves and commit to a great job that if done like this will generate general satisfaction fostering a climate of trust.

If in that example, team members are left alone without clear directions, they will have a difficult time to align to the required protocol procedures ending up making mistakes, possibly being blamed for them by the protocol officer in charge.

Team members need to know the final outcome or objective that must be achieved through this signing ceremony. They need to be explained the what, why’s, where, when, who and how in order to identify the main outcome of that ceremony. They also need to understand the vision with which the ceremony should be organized.

So what tool does exist out there to equip that protocol officer in charge to make sure she/he communicates clear and accurate directions to the team members?

I found one that has been developed by Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) called Direction-Alignment-Commitment: DAC is a fundamental leadership model easy to remember and apply. It is a universal model, a kind of Swiss Army knife of Leadership. Here is how it works:

Direction= is about setting a common vision or common goal. It is communicating the where are we going?

Alignment= is about how you will accomplish this vision or goal. It is about exploring how we will get there?

Commitment= is about taking action to implement the plan. It is what we are going to do to make that vision a reality?

 A fun and easy way to metaphor DAC is to represent it under the form a stool with three legs, see the picture. How would it apply with the signing ceremony example?

Direction= the protocol officer in charge will have to communicate in clear, simple terms what need to be achieved through the signing ceremony. Among others, stakeholder satisfaction will be one of the objectives on top of the list. Why? Because through stakeholder satisfaction, the image of the signing companies will be enhanced, will also create a climate of mutual respect and trust which is so important nowadays in the aftermath of the crisis. Clarifying the why’s so that the protocol team members understand clearly their role or mission.

Alignment= When the protocol team members will have understand what is at stake, the protocol officer in charge should not assume her/his team members know exactly what  it will take to make this ceremony a successful one. Instead the protocol officer would be wise to explore with his team members skills they are missing and have them train and practice until full competency of the required skills. Only then will you have protocol team members being self-confident and fully competent, enjoying what they are doing because doing it well.

Commitment= Once the protocol team members know the purpose of the ceremony and how to perform it, they will be fully committed to operate in this specific way. It is the implementation stage.

Now imagine DAC in action at your work place. If you are in charge of a team, how clearly do you communicate the Direction? Any flow in your communication ending up in misunderstandings leading to gaffes? If you are part of a team dealing with protocol officers, how much are you able to align completely to the directions being given? Do you feel sometimes like a blind folded person? Are there any gaps in communication that hinder you from committing completely to perform some task? How much do you feel leadership is shared through the vertical layers or horizontally? I leave you reflecting on those questions.

Next time, I want to introduce you a model that will help you giving and receiving feedback. That model has helped me a lot in this difficult activity but yet so important.

*About the author:

Olivier Herlin is Academic Coordinator at the ISPD and Co-founder of Beamable.org

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