Innovative Leaders Have A Clear Purpose

Business owners should be clear about their goals if they want people to join them on their journey.

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Business owners should be clear about their goals if they want people to join them on their journey.


Innovative Leaders Have A Clear Purpose

Business owners should be clear about their goals if they want people to join them on their journey.

Share this article

Innovative leaders are focused on change, but around them there are many who are quite happy with the current state of affairs.

The first challenges that the leader faces are how to communicate the need for change, and how to secure the buy-in of the people in the organisation. ‘Inaction is not an option’ is a mantra that has to be taken up in organisations where change is needed but the need for change is not fully recognised.

The natural tendency for business managers is to focus on improving efficiency and refining the current processes because it is clear that ‘we can do things better’.

Improving efficiency is important but it is not enough. If you were making horse-drawn carriages then it did not matter how much you improved efficiency, because automobiles were going to put you out of business.

If you were making gas lamps and you focused on better production, it did not help because electric lights were going to make your lamps obsolete.

If you were making LP records then it did not matter how much time you spent in quality improvement programs because CDs were going to hammer you. And if you were making CDs then it did not help however much you improved the mechanical operations because downloads were looming on the horizon.

The message is that innovation beats efficiency. You have to improve what you are doing but you also have to find entirely new and better ways to do it.

The leader has to communicate the message that doing what we do now, only better, is not enough. If you do what you always did then you will get what you always got.

You have to do something different to get different results. You have to do something significantly smarter to get significantly better results.

Painting the vision

Stewart Butterfield is a Canadian serial entrepreneur. He is famous for founding the photo-sharing site Flickr which he sold to Yahoo. He then developed a gaming application.

Glitch, which failed. His latest venture is Slack, a platform for team communication and project management, which has been valued at over $1bn. In a recent interview in the Times of India he told of some of the important lessons he has learnt.

When asked what was the one key mantra for a start-up’s success he said, ‘You need to have clarity of purpose which can be communicated to other people. This makes a huge difference.’

He explained that Instagram had a clear and simple message – quick, public photo-sharing on mobile. Flickr was less successful because it had a mixed message – it was used for social photo sharing but also by amateur and professional photographers. He believed that the big reason for Glitch’s failure was that it was not easy to explain the idea to people.

If you want to succeed with a start-up or indeed with any innovative idea then it greatly helps if you can simply explain exactly what it is. Precisely who will benefit from it and what problem does it solve for them?

If this clear then it makes your marketing clearer and simpler. You can explain your proposition succinctly for investors, suppliers, contractor and staff.

One of the most important qualities that a leader needs is clarity. There must be an open debate about progress and options but once a course is decided then everyone should get on board and pull in the same direction until the next review meeting.

Replace confusion with clarity and the team will thank you. The clear purpose of the leader is to create a clear purpose for the team.

To construct a clear corporate vision you need to consider four components. These are your purpose, your mission, your culture and your values. The purpose is the fundamental reason for the existence of the organisation.

The mission expresses the purpose as a strategic goal. The culture defines the style of the organisation – how it does things. The values are the beliefs of the organisation – what it stands for. These four elements underpin the vision, which is an inspiring statement of the destination of the company. It is a challenging but achievable dream.

The vision does not have to be defined in detail. However, it must be recognisable as something ambitious but achievable for the enterprise.

When in 1961 President Kennedy famously set out the goal of a moon landing he did it with one simple sentence: ‘I believe that this nation should commit itself to landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth before this decade is out.’

The vision was clear. The timescale was set. The challenge was thrown down. It was accepted and accomplished. Painting a scene that is desirable, challenging and believable is the task of the lateral leader. If you can do this then there are three big gains for the organisation:

Just painting the picture is not enough. It quickly fades from view if it is not constantly reinforced. If you want the vision to endure then you must communicate it in many ways.

To be an effective leader you have to meet people at all levels in the organisation, reinforce the message, solicit their buy-in and gain feedback on their views and concerns.

Great leaders take time to meet staff, especially new recruits. They illustrate the vision, the goals and the challenges; explain to staff how their role is crucial in fulfilling the vision and meeting the challenges. They inspire people to become crusading entrepreneurs finding innovative routes to success.

Tips for setting and communicating the vision

¦             Ensure that everyone understands that standing still is not an option.

¦             Communicate the need for change.

¦             Paint a goal of where the organisation will be. Visualise the benefits.

¦             If you do not have a clear and meaningful vision statement today then pull together a team to construct one.

¦             Choose a vision that inspires and directs the organization.

¦             Ensure that it is broad enough to allow great flexibility.

¦             Communicate the vision and the messages and strategic objectives that flow from it.

¦             Derive innovation objectives with measurable targets and deadlines.

¦             Solicit feedback to draw out concerns and to ensure the vision is properly understood.

¦             Help people buy into this process by getting them to set their own objectives in line with the vision.

¦             Use intranet, e-mail, Slack, Whatsapp or whatever is the best and latest  tool to achieve unfettered two-way communication.

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Innovative Leaders Have A Clear Purpose

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