By Owen Phelps, Ph.D.
Director, Yeshua Catholic International Leadership Institute
Many leaders think their primary task is to get people to do what they want them to do. In a word, their goal is compliance.
Compliance has its place. In every aspect of life, there are some things that must be done and some that can’t be done. The sooner people learn what these are and comply, the better and happier everyone will be.
But compliance can’t be either the workplace focus or the basis of the leader-follower relationship.
We’ve all heard the phrase before, “Just do what you are told.” That’s not bad advice to give yourself your first day on the job. But if that axiom is imbedded in the corporate culture, it’s a recipe for mediocrity.
In organizations with compliance cultures, if anything is getting done it’s because leaders are compulsively busy directing their followers’ lives from moment to moment. More likely, not much is getting done — because people aren’t taking any initiative and doing it. Instead, they’re waiting to be told what to do, doing the minimum and then waiting for new directions.
In such environments, the leader’s life is akin to that of Sisyphus: day in and day out he or she rolls a huge boulder up a big hill, watches it roll back down, and starts pushing it back up the hill again.
Organizations have their missions to accomplish. They are supposed to be productive. That requires that the people in the organization become engaged with the mission. Work is much more about producing than it is about complying. People are needed to contribute — not just comply.
So effective leaders focus on mission and make the development of followers an equal part of their purpose. Thinking organically, they strive to make their organizations “whole body smart” so that each member is contributing optimally and becoming ever more able to contribute still more. Some speak of this as a “virtuous circle.”
Effective leaders make the time to learn how to engage their people in their organizations’ missions and to foster everyone’s growth so that a process of constant development and improvement is built into the culture.
That’s an investment that yields lasting and growing dividends.
Copyright © 2010 Yeshua Catholic International Leadership Institute, 208 E. North St., Durand, IL 61024. Any part of this newsletter may be reproduced so long as there is full attribution, our web site is listed, and any electronic reproduction includes a link to our site: http://www.yeshualeader.com.