In the era of disruptors, great leaders are like roundabout traffic circles. Their predecessors are more like traffic lights. Roundabout leaders allow a lot of give and take, not wishing to retard the forward-thinking ideation and inventiveness of those they lead. They rely on the guidance system of commitment rather than the rules of compliance. And they support effective execution over waste-my-time allegiance to bureaucratic efficiency.
Roundabout leaders know that disruption can bring the opportunity for adaption and renewal. It rewards the nimble and agile. Great leadership can channel the fire of change into resilient growth able to weather an increasingly competitive landscape.
Here are seven tenets of roundabout leaders in the era of disruptors:
Roundabout leaders keep the flame burning. People need a constant they can count on in times of massive change. That constant must be compelling and relevant; it has to be a foundation for everything. The flame most likely to evoke a sense of purpose or calling is an effective vision––the picture of what the organization is striving to be, not just organized to do. And the key to keeping the flame burning is to give every employee a match!
Roundabout leaders keep in touch. “You can pretend to care, you cannot pretend to be there,” wrote Texas Bix Bender in his book Don’t Squat With Your Spurs On: A Cowboy’s Guide to Life! (Gibbs Smith, 1992). Bender was describing a vital feature of roundabout leadership: command presence. Great leaders focus on being there, everywhere, not in absentia. And when they are there, they are all there—focused, attentive, and engaged. They thrive on keeping things genuine and vibrant.
Roundabout leaders keep out of the way. “Keep out of the way” is not an invitation to hands-off abandonment, but rather a caution to never use any more leadership than is needed. Limited leadership is the foundation of trust-building empowerment. Roundabout leaders give employees the freedom to solve customer problems and answer questions on the spot within flexible guidelines.
Roundabout leaders keep relationships egalitarian. Roundabout leaders create relationships that are vision-centered, not power-centered. Roundabout leaders focus on support, not subservience; on commitment, not compliance. This approach encourages employees to be partners with other employees. And it arms them with the confidence to exhibit partnering enlistment toward customers.
Roundabout leaders keep the focus on results, not activity. Creating a great, compelling vision is important. Crafting clear standards and expectations is vital. Selecting, training, and resourcing people in how to deliver high performance is crucial. Determining the metrics and indicators of success is imperative. But in the end, all the planning and preparing is “just getting ready to.” People judge your position by the one you take, not by the one you propose.
Roundabout leaders keep their promises. Trust is born out of authenticity. We trust another when we perceive that his or her motives are unadulterated and credible. The stereotypical leader gets caught up with looking, sounding, and “acting” executive, and employees get a message of “plastic power.” Roundabout leaders know that humility bolsters trust. They are unimpressed with the trappings of supremacy and more interested in communicating an authentic spirit and an egalitarian style.
Roundabout leaders keep jelly beans on their desks. “Jelly beans” is my code word for the sense of joy and fun today’s employees desperately need (and expect). As customers aim their anxiety at the front line, employees need the bulletproof vests that can come from high self-esteem. Happy employees are resilient in times of chaos, courageous in moments of conflict.
Leaders-to-be need to develop a unique leadership style that will allow them to meet new challenges and have the greatest impact.