The Tactics of Leadership
Six Sigma practitioners know their strategy is to improve processes or procedures through increasing effectiveness and efficiency. To accomplish that strategy practitioners apply the tactics of design, measure, analyze, improve, and control (DMAIC).
One of the things I find unique about leadership is many discussions of leadership is often described from the leaders’ point of view. While there may be some utility in this it will often not get to the root purpose of leadership. To get there we must describe leadership from the perspective of the team. If we use the Six Sigma approach to the function of leadership the generally accepted strategy is to influence self and others to achieve a common goal or objective. So what tactics would have to be applied to accomplish this objective?
Establish a Strategic Vision: The team must see the leader has the business acumen to envision a positive goal for the team. The team must see the vision is at a strategic level which will require them to perform at a high operational and tactical level.
Understand the Environment: The team must see the leader has a detailed understanding of the physical and emotional environment within which he or she is working. They must observe the leader has identified the factors influencing the situation and has a plan for influencing as many of these factors as possible. If a leader cannot influence a factor, the team sees the leader has a method to mitigate the negative impact or accentuate the positive impact.
Build (or Maintain) Credibility and Rapport with Your Team: If analysis is the workhorse of DMAIC then this is certainly the workhorse of leadership tactics. There are plenty of tollgates a leader meets to ensure he or she has the unfettered support of everyone on the team.
- Clear communication skills – The team must see the leader has a command of the entire communication process. Not only do they see the leader as one who can formulate and send the message, but they see the leader is acceptable to critical feedback, listens actively and has the ability to overcome the barriers and frames of reference in communication.
- Demonstrate a commitment to the vision – Team members must see the leader as one who truly believes in the vision. It does not matter if the leader is the Chief Executive of an organization, or a subordinate leader elsewhere in the organization, the team must see the leader owns the vision.
- Earn the trust of each individual on the team – Team members must have a reason to trust their leader. Leadership is a trust relationship and without it achieving the vision will be impossible.
- Engage the team as a group and as individuals – The team must feel the leader can and does energize them. They want to see and hear the message in such a manner as to want to go after the vision. This means they must see the leader involved in the process, involvement applied in a balanced manner between a hands-off approach which allows them to use their expertise and initiative to inspire innovation, to a more active involvement when the team demonstrates they need focused guidance and direction.
- Demonstrate a level of proficiency in the task necessary to achieve the vision – The team must see the leader has a good understanding of the industry and the tasks necessary to bring the vision to fruition. They do not need, or want a leader who portrays himself or herself as a subject matter expert. Remember if the leader assembles his or her team and is the smartest person in the room they have assembled the wrong team.
- Coach the team – Team members must be allowed to discover innovative methods to address unique challenges, they may get ideas and a general direction, and the leader must then get out of the way.
- Be consistent in word and deed – The team must always receive the same type and style of guidance from the leader. The message must be clear an unable to be misunderstood. The observations of the team as to the leaders’ words and actions, as individuals and as a team are crucial to achieving the vision.
Lead the team: Once the team feels they can trust the leader it is time to the begin working towards the vision.
- Build the plan – The team must be included in the development of the plan to accomplish the task. They are the individuals who will ultimately have to implement the plan, and are the SME’s of the task.
- Implement the plan – Establish a timeline and specific reporting requirements regarding the progress of the plan and allow your team to use intuition and innovation to create unique solutions to accomplish the task.
- Manage the plan – The team must feel the leader is managing the plan but leading them. The team expects the leader to provide the resources necessary to accomplish the task, act as a diverter to distraction of the team, and when necessary provide, update or modify the guidance to keep the task on track.
- Follow-up – The team expects the leader to follow up on tasks assigned and to provide constructive feedback on their progress. The team does not want the leader to wait until a deadline to follow-up only to find the individual had fallen behind or had hit a challenge for which they were not prepared.