The success of any organization is determined not only by the commitment and vision of the chief executive but also — and perhaps even more importantly — by the commitment of leaders at all levels. These leaders must individually and collectively represent the mission and vision of the organization by making strategic priorities actionable.
The product of this process should be a tactical plan that ensures widespread commitment and involvement from individuals within their respective units.
In this way, the process of building engagement applies not only to the chief executive, but also to division leaders and managers across the organization. When this approach spreads from the top throughout divisions and departments, it fosters even greater levels of commitment and productivity.
At Cuyahoga Community College, this has in part taken the form of the President’s Council, a formalized body of leaders from the faculty and staff who discuss, deliberate and build consensus on actions for achieving goals and objectives around student achievement.
Often the conventional organizational hierarchy does not allow for engagement through such a kitchen cabinet application. Even so, you must undertake a concerted effort to ensure a closer proximity to individuals who carry out day-to-day operations and who often know firsthand how to address specific challenges and opportunities. Engage these individuals and groups to educate them on your vision for the organization and to actively seek input.
This process flattens the organization, either structurally or perceptually, allowing you to develop stronger ties with coalitions of respected individuals who advise on important matters and represent the interests and opinions of their colleagues. This cannot be a mere show; you must genuinely listen and respond. Being visible and approachable provides an opportunity to be known on a personal level and display interpersonal skills that complement technical expertise.
In addition, you must know your organization. It is not sufficient to spout cursory information and statistics; you must articulate how these descriptors serve as a baseline for actions, determine the strategies required to execute them and provide outcomes to support future endeavors.
Even as you seek input from across your organization, accept your responsibility to drive change. As you make the tough decisions sometimes needed to maintain an organization, you will face critics. Accept accountability when things go wrong, and learn how to move forward.
A degree of fortitude is required, especially when change is needed. This type of fortitude is not just the capacity to endure personal adversity but also the ability to be purposeful and tenacious in inspiring people to keep moving ahead.
Leadership cannot be a solitary pursuit. You must engage individuals and groups from throughout your organization by demonstrating your commitment to the growth of the organization and the individuals who will get the work done. By doing so, you will find that the organization is stronger and the outcomes greater than they could possibly be otherwise.
Adapted from the “Change the Lapel Pin,” by Alex Johnson, Ph.D., published by Smart Business Network and available at Tri-C campus bookstores or at www.tri-c.edu/changethelapelpin.