Leading in a transparent way

by C. Villefrance Moeller, TalesOfLeading

There is hardly a topic so thoroughly examined as management and the role of leaders. We have admired and praised the successful ones as heroes since the dawn of history. Some of them are also more than willing to share, what and how they have done it. The list of normative instructions are long and often detached from the context. It can be interesting reading and to some extend inspiring. However, I have often wondered what I could learn from their (idealized) stories. I’m just responsible for a handful of people and not a large globalized enterprise. How can I learn to fill out the role without compromising my values? On this blog, I share my own reflections and experiences with you. I hope you will share yours by mail (christina@talesofleading.com) or as a comment.

I see no reason to complicate things. That is why my own definition of a leader is rather basic:

A leader is designated (formally or informally) to ensure a group of people solve a common task.

Take the lead

Superiors usually appoint leaders formally to the role in organizations. You can observe what the role mean when a group of people gets a common task to solve and no one is formally appointed. Then an interesting dynamic starts between the members of the group. Have you ever experienced that? It’s often used in team building exercises. Some people will start to lead informally. The group can then chose to authorize one informally as they accept and follow her guidance. However, it can look like a funny dance when no one step up to take the role and the chance the job is done diminish.

Rivalry starts when more than one person apply for the role. I have seen two people do this by stating different opinions on how the group should solve the task. This sounds rather harmless but have you ever seen a bunch of directors fighting with Power Point slides promoting their agenda or projects? It reminds me of (male) dinosaurs fiercely crushing their heavy horned heads together. You could also read my blog: Lay a strategy – and stick to it. Maybe that’s one reason that (work) climate change when female leaders enter the scene. Don’t the dinosaurs know whether or how to attack a female rival claiming a top position? However this will lead to a completely other discussion.

What task are you working on?

They are good at defining the task in manufacturing. There’s a blueprint to show what the finished product look like, a standard describe the sequence and the workstation is arranged as an aid for you. Framing of the task is transparent, visible and tangible. The complexity comes when we divide the task on several people. The manufacturer may have a number of different workstations, products, a planner to organize who should do what and when, a salesperson who have contact with customers and an accountant who make invoices to customers and keep the accounts. Individuals have each their task, which is part of the common task.

Understanding transparency

Since February, I have tried to explore transparency on the blog. How can we construct a transparent framing that makes it easier for everyone to understand what that task is? Purpose of the task is not always clear and sometimes you could be Creatively breaking the rules. Also, the destination can be unclear as you are driven by curiosity to take A step into the unknown. However, the leader might then need to look over her shoulder and ask: Do you follow me? Maybe they don’t understand where they are and where they are heading. In this case, transparency about status on objectives can be helpful unless you lack prioritization. How many top priorities do you have? I stated this question, because meetings are supposed to bring clarity about status and coordination.

The daily huddle or The management meeting is also a place for the leader to build relations and create an environment of trust, where it’s safe to ask: Are you sure? Are you mentally present at the meetings and Do you show that you care? It is a question of leading the group as well as individuals and ensure transparency about who’s responsible of what: How do you manage your relations?

Framing and relations are supported by a structure ensuring questions like: What do you really know? and What happened to the customer?

Questions for you

In the coming blogs I will explore transparency in decision-making.

  • What is your experience on transparent decision-making?
  • In what way do you create transparency about the task you are responsible of?
  • Did you miss something in framing, relations and structure to clarify the purpose of the task?

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