There’s a phrase that many in business have been using for some time now. Typically it’s a manager in a leadership role telling someone else that they need to “move the needle.” That is, they need to cause some change, they need to increase revenue and/or reduce the cost associated with increasing said revenue. There is a call to action, “Let’s get something done.”
I understand the manager’s motivation. We get evaluated on whether or not we move the needle. But that’s not all there is to it. While the leader’s job is to move the needle, to move the business from A to B, that job is actually three jobs. Each one is a little harder than the other one and asks more of leaders.
Any intelligent, self-motivated individual can do the first job – move the business from A to B. You identify tasks and complete them. And, unless that individual is the only employee, that individual has to impact and engage others to work alongside her to move the business from A to B. That means that another, more difficult job of the leader is getting other individuals to come together and work as a team to help move the business from A to B.
Forming and sustaining high performing teams is hard work that requires focused intention and regular attention. Team leadership cannot be delegated; and to do it well requires the third job of leadership – move ourselves from leading by default to leading by design.
Leading by design is the hardest job there is. Our tendency is to race from A to B. We want the team to perform at a high level and we don’t want to deal with the messy human stuff. These tendencies actually impede us and hinder our goal of moving the needle. We have to move our own needle through a regular practice of learning and development in order to be present enough to positively impact and engage others to join us in causing a positive disruption, aka moving the needle.
To succeed at these three jobs of leadership, we must think more carefully, feel more fully, and communicate more effectively. Learning to think, feel and communicate with greater effectiveness is a daily practice and a life-long journey. It is the hero’s journey to more authentic leadership. It is the only way to move the needle.