"Directional Clarity": How a Leader Gets YOU There.


October 4, 2012

There are many competencies that every leader needs to have in their overall “kit bag” in order to be successful but perhaps the greatest of these is the ability to be as clear as he or she can be about the future or to have what is often called “vision”. This competency is perhaps best described as “directional clarity” and it is the ability of a leader to identify a credible destination and indicate to followers how to get there in the most straightforward and simple way possible.

mazeOf course, this requirement for directional clarity is all very well in theory but it is not often that we are given much help or guidance about how to put this in practice or make it part of our everyday behaviors. This article therefore seeks to address this shortfall by describing a number of “target behaviors” that all leaders can aspire to develop. However, rather than to provide them in one long list, we have broken up the target behaviors into three clusters.

The first cluster below is foundational level or the behaviors that all leaders should exhibit on a minimal entry-level basis in order to be effective when it comes to directional clarity. The intermediate level cluster is aimed mainly at all middle managers or those leaders that have large teams or small group leaders reporting to them. Finally, the advanced level cluster is aimed mainly at senior managers or those leaders who have one, two or even more levels of leaders reporting to them. It should be noted that all of these behavior are progressive or build on the previous level.

Foundational level target behaviors

  1. Sets stretching but achievable personal objectives/targets.
  2. Invests time and effort to understand overall organizational vision and direction as a context for his/her own work and role.
  3. Understands how the organization functions and can get things done through formal as well as informal networks.
  4. Communicates effectively across organizational functions and departments.
  5. Sees ahead clearly; anticipates future consequences and trends accurately.
  6. Takes workable plans and makes them happen piece-by-piece; identifies and solves problems continuously.
  7. Regularly sets clear and easy to understand short and medium term goals and targets for colleagues to pursue.
  8. Writes clear and concise goals and objectives that need little in the way of explanation when they are read by others.

Intermediate level target behaviors

  1. Has broad knowledge that he/she can bring together in order to think tactically.
  2. Regularly solicits people’s input when deciding tactics on how goals and targets should be reached.
  3. Collects information about external organizations and/or competitors; stays current on trends; actively participates in professional organizations.
  4. Listens attentively to feedback from all quarters in order to make wiser decisions about future direction
  5. Makes daily decisions based on the ability to support long-term organizational goals; can see “the forest for the trees”.
  6. Develops clear and practical strategies and goals for self and the team.
  7. Clearly identifies and describes the end goal and the milestones that need to be achieved along the way.
  8. Can adeptly work backwards from medium to longer term goals and strategies to develop short-term tactics and targets for people to work on.
  9. Continues to clarify the vision and mission of the organization, the department and the team in order to create maximum alignment in terms of direction.

Advanced level target behaviors

  1. Builds alliances for the good of the organization; structures the company to take advantage of workforce strength and capabilities.
  2. Doesn’t get mired in the short-term; is able to focus on long-term goals and objectives and make significant progress toward these.
  3. Is intellectually curious about the future; uses plans and examples in describing the challenges of the future.
  4. Involves a wide range of people when formulating future strategy or direction.
  5. Thinks strategically about the long term vision for the team, function and entire organization (in three, five and even 10 years’ time horizons).
  6. Works hard to create team and organizational alignment towards a particular goal or destination.
  7. Carefully reviews external trends and patterns that may have an impact on team, functional or organizational direction.
  8. Invites people to identify multiple options and potential pathways to achieving organizational strategies and goals, so as to evolve the best approach.
  9.  Paints inspiring pictures of what the future could look like; motivates people in many different ways to give of their best.
  10. Seeks to maintain high levels of personal credibility as a leader by being clear, open and sincere in both word and deed.

One excellent way in which to use a list such as this is to highlight those behaviors that are not part of your current behavior and use this to assemble your own personal develop plan.

Dr. Jon WarnerDr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon is Editor-in-chief of ReadyToManage, Inc. and can be reached at Jon.Warner@ReadyToManage.com

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