Successful leadership teams and boards are more like the officers on a ship cruising down the river. The leaders look to the front to see where it is going and dealing with any challenges or barriers coming up. They look to the back to see where they have been and appreciate the different outlook this view provides without wanting to go back there. They steer the ship, set the course for the crew, and ensure they don’t get caught in a whirlpool. The team needs to work together to do these actions concurrently, give clear and non-contradictory instructions, and trust that each does their job with the same aims at heart. This example explains the essence of leadership alignment.
Your answers to the following questions will guide you through the essential components of alignment:
1. If everyone is going down river, do you want to go upriver instead? Are you passionate about the purpose of the organisation and does it align with your personal interest and mission in life? If not, you may have the notion of not fitting in. But you will also have diverging motivations. You may find it hard to gain fulfilment in this role and consider separating now before relationships sour and the organisation gets torn apart.
2. Do you want to end up at the destination of this ship or do you have another destination? Are you fully behind the organisation’s aspirations or vision? Is this vision, and the goals to achieve it, good for your career? Does it align with your personal ambitions? If it’s the former stay on the ship because your destination is ahead of you.
3. Do you value the excitement of a whirlpool or do you value safety? Do you know your personal values? Do they match or are at least similar to the organisations values? If there is a mismatch then there is a lack of culture fit. This makes it more difficult for you to comprehend the thinking and decision making of those who are working within this culture. It is possible that you make decisions which are inappropriate for this culture and edge on. Or, they may be appropriate for the new culture the organisation is changing to. Assess if the organisation has clearly defined and espoused values and behaviours required to work in this culture. These create a decision making framework which you are expected to align to.
4. Does everyone on the team expect you to look upriver when your skill is remembering every river bend and danger ahead? Is your talent needed in this team/on this board? Can you play to your strengths? If not, you may experience frustration and misunderstandings because people don’t take you seriously. Teams which don’t value diverse talents and knowledge are weaker for the lack of using their collective strengths and wisdom.
5. Does your crew trust you explicitly to take you through a storm? What level of trust do you experience in this organisation? Do you receive trust from the leader and your team members? Do you give them trust? Do you trust yourself to be in the right place?
Aligned leaders personal purpose, vision, goals, and values align with the organisation and the team. This increases trust and improves decision making. This does not mean group think, but balanced decisions that align with the organisation’s values rather than individual’s cat instinct i.e. personal beliefs. Gone are the days of herding. In are the days of aligning with the organisation and moving in the same direction with personal and professional motivation and setting this as the base expectation to working together.