I find it rather unusual that far fewer articles addressing the practice Enabling Others To Act appear in The Leadership Challenge e-Newsletter compared to the others. Especially in light of the environmental complexity in which leaders must operate today, this practice is critical to a leader's success. No leader can survive long term without a team of colleagues working together to take advantage of all the opportunities and to resolve all the challenges they face. Exemplary leaders know they don't go it alone and key to this practice is when they are able to create an environment in which colleagues do their best—not because they have to, but because they want to.
Inspiring commitment is critical. Anyone with power can command commitment. A leader, however, inspires commitment. And creating and nurturing that kind of commitment is possible when a few key leadership activities are practiced and mastered. As part of a Leadership Challenge Workshop® for healthcare executives I conducted recently, I offered the following as a roadmap:
1. Care. Colleagues who know they are cared for often return the favor with greater commitment to a leader's vision. On the other hand, when followers don't feel a leader cares about them, they won't care much either. Make sure you openly demonstrate a caring attitude—to all employees at every level—so you are completely confident that everyone knows you care. Your teammates and co-workers will commit to making sure you don't fail as long as they know they are cared for first.
2. Create ownership. Closely tied to the second practice of Inspiring a Shared Vision, commitment can be enhanced if people believe the leader's vision is also their own. Make sure employees have a say in how the work should be accomplished. Explaining each colleague's role in the job at hand enhances commitment, and lets everyone know the importance of their individual contribution to the final product. When colleagues clearly understand their purpose/role in the endeavor, they are more likely to make a greater commitment to the job.
3. Ensure security. Commitment can be enhanced when people feel secure. If co-workers know taking prudent risks won't be punished, they tend to give more freely the talent and effort it takes to get the job done. If yours is a "zero defects" organization, on the other hand, they hold back, often reluctant to give 100%. Colleagues who know you "have their backs" are more likely to extend the envelope of knowledge and take the calculated risks so often required for organizations to be successful today.
4. Practice accountability for everyone...including you! Colleague commitment and accountability are closely related. When everyone knows that each individual will be held to a certain level of accountability, commitment is often enhanced. A culture of accountability encourages teamwork, reciprocity, and a willingness to cover for each other. When colleagues realize that as a team everyone's contributions are important, knowledge gets shared, confidence increases, and everybody wins.
Leaders who Enable Others to Act spread their influence far beyond their physical sphere. Committed colleagues reflect their leader's vision and persona. They act in your best interests because they are committed to the same things you are.
Jody R. Rogers, Ph.D., is a Certified Master-in-Training of The Leadership Challenge® and Program Manager for the Army Medical Department Executive Skills Program. A Board Certified Healthcare Executive and Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), he can be reached at Jrogers5@satx.rr.com.