Great leaders provide a clarity of vision, decision-making structure and communication systems

David Fuller

It was 6 a.m. on a Monday, and the instructor for the spin class didn’t show up. Lost without leadership, half a dozen women and a sprinkling of middle-aged men were sitting on their bikes pedalling aimlessly.

Disappointed that there wasn’t going to be a fitness class, I considered what I should do for the next hour to burn off some of the extra weight I had accumulated over the winter.

Suddenly one of the women suggested we run a spin class anyways. Who would like to lead the session?

What happened that morning is indicative of what happens when we fail to provide leadership in our businesses.

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Last week, I had a strategy session with a business owner in Ontario who was concerned because her sales were sliding. She felt paralyzed. She told me she was having trouble making decisions, her staff was looking to her for direction but she wasn’t sure what to do next, and so she was unable to tell them what needed to be done.

Because no one was in charge, one of her key employees decided to start a costly project that didn’t contribute to driving revenue in the company. The owner felt incapable of bringing the project to a close.

The company was in a downward spiral: her company was lost without her leadership.

Without good leadership, organizations struggle to fulfil the basic premises of their existence. Employees often do what they think is best, but without guidance and clear direction, the targets are often missed.

Leaders who fail to step up and create an environment where there’s clarity of purpose, and a specific process to achieve that purpose, are negligent in their duties. This often leads to dysfunction, drama, complacency and unprofitability.

So what makes good leadership, and what do leaders do if they cannot contribute to the company’s success?

Good leadership is complex. Every great organization needs something slightly different in leadership within its culture. However, there are three things that great leaders provide:

Vision: Clarity about where the organization is going. This doesn’t always come directly from the leader, but leadership provides the structure the company uses to define its direction and come up with strategies that will work to improve the organization.

Decision-making: Again, great leaders don’t make all the decisions but having a ‘buck stops here’ mentality means leaders need to have the backbone to stand behind choices made by the management team that are aimed at getting results.

Communication: Good leaders need to be able to communicate or have a process to do so. They need to understand themselves and be able to relate to the people on their team in order to persuade and influence them.

Failure is guaranteed if you can’t form a vision, make decisions and communicate those decisions to people. Mediocrity and disappointment are the inevitable results of poor leadership.

Two women stepped up and took leadership of our spin class. For the next 50 minutes, I had the best workout of the winter and walked away soaked in sweat and ready to face the day.

My client also stepped up. Taking back control of the company not only relieved her stress but gave her hope that she could turn the business around.

Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award-winning business coach and a partner with Pivotleader Inc.

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