The term “engagement”, although not a new term in the business world, has continually struck a chord that seems to resonate stronger as the years go on. What once meant to be a measure of employee satisfaction and buy-in is now seeping, rightfully so, into a yardstick for leaders.
Likewise, “alignment” in an organizational application is not a new concept or buzzword, as it’s existed for some twenty-plus years. We’ve seen it used quite often in dovetailing employee thinking and behavior with the corporate value statement. It also is used to ensure systems and procedures are congruent with the organization’s mission and goals so there is minimal wasted time or resources.
Yet it is becoming clear that the next evolution of “alignment” should follow the course of “engagement” and seek it’s roots into the leadership realm.
Leaders need to look at alignment of themselves, in both in internal and external measures.
In some leadership circles integrity is defined as consistently acting according to ones’ beliefs. However a more true definition would be “consistently acting according to what we say our beliefs are”. This definition better aligns the leader internally – by having no inner conflict – and externally by building credibility and respect.
Here are some essential thoughts on leadership self-alignment:
Be self-aware. This is more than a buzzword. It’s knowing who you truly are – your identity, your values, and your mission. Take to heart what you believe in and measure yourself and your intentions against those identifying values.
Temper your mind to those thoughts. Most leaders do this through reading and sharing insights with other leaders. However thinking and meditating on what you know is true will enable you to govern your thoughts to be of benefit to yourself. It brings every thought into conformity to your values.
See everything through your values. Here again, reading is a key element. But this also lends itself to watching and observing other leaders in action in the laboratory of life. You must also look for the opportunities to bring yourself and your circumstances in position to be a more influential leader.
Listen inward and outwardly. Seminars and podcasts can allow great thought leaders to resonate in your mind and come out in your life. It’s important to listen to your colleagues, mentors, staff and teams for their feedback on how congruent your behaviors are to your values. Don’t slough this vital feedback off for a moment. Solicit input from trusted friends. Listen for opportunities to learn and grow. Discern the critics’ voices but take the criticism to be better and keep yourself in line.
Talk consistent to yourself. Listen more, but by all means talk your core values up. Speak what is true to your values. Discuss those dreams and possibilities to allow your values to inspire others. Lift people with your tongue, as great leaders will build others up. Engage in uplifting self talk. Promote yourself, even to yourself. Speak about your dreams to everyone, from yourself, through your family and colleagues, to everyone you meet.
Put your hands to work. Turn your values into actionable steps. Roll up your sleeves and create your vision. Don’t tear down, but put those actions into play. Your actions do indeed speak louder than words, and if not congruent to who you are will always belie your true values and intentions.
Walk the talk. While your actions will speak for you, so will your associations. Get involved in the teams or organizations that hold to the same or similar values that you have. Get to the places that will network, give opportunity, place you with mentors and colleagues. If you are working with a company and you share their values, then fully adopt them and make them an extension of who you are.
Self-correct. If you fail, admit it, make restitution, and correct it. Move on. Credibility is built not with just integrity, but in admission of failure and a willingness to correct and get yourself back on track.
Aligning yourself with your organization. This aspect of alignment needs more attention. Employees are aligned and engaged when their leaders are likewise aligned and engaged. But many leaders just engage and do not correlate themselves to the values of the organization they represent. If you are going be a part of a company, a leader must align their attitudes and behaviors to that organization’s values. If the leader or the company has conflicting values and philosophies, then they must part ways. But when the choice is made of who to bring aboard and what company you wish to be a part of, then the leader must ensure those company values dovetail with their values.
Align with your team 360 degrees. Do this through those that report to you, your lateral colleagues, and those whom you report to. You are accountable to everyone you are associated with, like it or not. So a leader needs to set the expectation of how they will conduct themselves and solicit honest feedback to keep them in line.
Align yourself against compromising forces. Any entity or individual who has values contrary to yours will pose a challenge to compromise and dilute your values. This includes pressure from bosses, popularity, and voting with the crowd. Your self-alignment measures will be tested by these external forces, so you must anchor yourself from being twisted around by distorting pressures.
Please note that self-alignment is not an effort to be a chameleon, or to bend to what other entities want. Having differences of opinion and some variations of values are necessary for growth and insight. But in finding your true leadership character, and finding ways to be congruent with those around you, will enable you as a leader to make a more effective impact in your professional and personal life.
by: Paul LaRue