Essential Leadership Function 1: The Catalyst
In chemistry, catalysts make things happen. Good leaders are catalysts. They see something that isn’t how it should or could be and bring about change. For many organisations, a significant change will be a clear refocus on the organisational mission. The catalytic leader understands the importance of answering the ‘why do we do what we do’. They focus on ensuring all organisational elements and resources align towards the organisational purpose. In effect, reminding, encouraging and energizing all personnel and activity towards this single purpose is the remit of a catalytic leader.
Essential Leadership Function 2: The Guide
Guides know a landscape and territory well enough to carve a path for others to follow. Good leaders are guides, taking their people on a journey. Their remit is navigating the realm of organisational vision. Guides understand two dynamics – the end destination of the journey, and the current starting point. They connect the two and walk at a pace that invigorates the weary, without racing ahead of the stragglers. The best guides enjoy the journey and know when to slow down and when to speed up. Guides overcome obstacles without leaving others behind and take time to answer questions that come up along the path. Ultimately, they want people to follow them on the same journey the organisation is on.
Essential Leadership Function 3: The Gardener
Gardeners seek to make things grow, so good leaders must be gardeners. In their minds, they have a vision of what they want to see and they put their hands to work to cultivate it. They know about the environment as soil, the atmosphere as influences, values as seeds, and growth as fruit. Bringing them all together, the gardener creates an organisational culture that reflects a way of thinking geared towards the mission and vision. They look to shape how people think and act. Gardeners are patient and focus on the individual, whilst being mindful of the whole field. Functioning as developers and shapers, gardeners understand the power of transformation.
Essential Leadership Function 4: The Architect
Architects devise the right structures to support the organisational vision and desired culture. Good leaders are architects. They create frameworks that support the essential activities of the organisation, understand processes to help things run smoothly, and match the right people to the right responsibilities. Architects know when it is right to build extensions, rewire the house, or even level it and rebuild something bigger and better. They understand the importance of organisational structure as something to serve the vision, and not restrict, limit or contain it. In that sense, the best architects are visionary first, and builders second. But without the building, no vision ever succeeds.
Essential Leadership Function 5: The Tactician
Tacticians plan and implement the best actions to advance the cause of the organisation. Good leaders are tacticians, who focus on organisational strategy. They understand the balance of both planning and action – with only one, there is always a waste of resources, whether that is time, energy or finance. Tacticians know the organisational mission, vision, culture and structure, and then consider the resources available to them. They work to establish wise goals to advance the organisations purposes. Tacticians are planners and doers.
Each of these essential leadership functions is key to an organisation that thrives. Which are you strong in, and which are you weakest? Are you having to act in a function that isn’t your sweet spot? Let me know in the comments below.