An action-oriented leader guides a vision forward with a team in order to reach objectives and make progress. However, given a busy schedule, constant change, and a dynamic work environment, it’s challenging to make sure your team is actually making progress and reaching objectives.
Many leaders don’t realize that amongst the constant day-to-day activity, essential components of team dynamics fall unacknowledged and unresolved. Things like clarity about priorities, support, and resources are overlooked. Over time, these small yet vital components of team dynamics cause lack of productivity and engagement. Without periodically zooming out and checking in on essential leadership vitals, collective progress becomes directionless and empty.
This system of seven leadership vitals is for making both individual and collective progress. Why individual and collective? As a leader, it’s the norm to think in terms of the team as a whole and focus only on collective progress. However, leaders that can think on both the collective level and the individual level are the most successful, action-oriented leaders. Teamwork and collective success requires both individual and collective awareness.
Use this system of seven vitals to become an action-oriented leader. Learn to identify your own leadership blind spots to lead your team toward individual and collective progress.
The Seven Vitals for Action-Oriented Leadership
Vision is the foundation for successful action-oriented leadership. Vision is about providing clarity as to what your team’s purpose truly is and how you accomplish that purpose in action. Vision involves collective understanding about the team’s mission and the actions you all take to accomplish that mission. The Vision includes the what (what your team contributes to the company or organization) and the how (the actions you take to get there). This is the first essential vital any leader should have clarity about and be able to articulate to the team.
A team is a system. Like any other system that has components that work together to accomplish an objective, a team is a collection of people that work together to accomplish an objective for the organization. However, teams have a human component that is different from other kinds of systems that don’t involve humans. Many leaders overlook the fact that the human need for Support impacts productivity, engagement, morale, and retention. Important aspects of team dynamics happen on the individual level. Each team member needs different versions of support that come in the form of environment, mentorship, and schedule preferences that fuel their best work. Leaders that spend time on both personal and professional needs and preferences are most successful.
Structure is the third vital. Structure is an extension of your Vision. Structure brings the Vision down to an individual level, to break down your actions in terms of who does what and when things must get done. Structure includes individual understanding in terms of specific responsibilities — which actions fall under which person’s responsibility on the team. Teams that don’t have Structure in place work in different directions and feel confused. Time and energy is wasted. Structure brings your Vision plan to life at the individual level in order to achieve collective success.
Tools? Why tools? Tools are the resources — the systems and equipment — that your team uses regularly. Tools are extensions of your abilities. Many leaders overlook this vital and don’t evaluate their tools often or closely enough. Leaders also overlook the need to check in and make sure team members know how to use the systems and tools they have access to. Do you have too many tools? Do you have the right tools your team needs to succeed? Spend time analyzing and optimizing your tool belt. Work with your team to make sure you have the resources you need to do your best work.
Context is another unfamiliar vital for many leaders. Context is the understanding of the landscape of the organization beyond your team’s immediate work scope. Without understanding of company Context beyond the immediate team environment, teams work in silos. Working in a silo often makes the team’s work inapplicable to the larger mission of the organization. With big-picture understanding of the company mission and goals, knowledge of the company landscape, and understanding of other people and operations within the company, team members have more appreciation and understanding about the true utility and value of their work. Educate your team on the company Context.
In the heat of the day-to-day pressure to get things done, leaders often forget the importance of motivation. Without a pause for acknowledgement or time together as a team, team members lose connection to work and to each other. Team environments become environments of animosity and disconnection. As I wrote is a past article about the ROI of Team Bonding, there are clear essential benefits to spending time bonding as a team. There is also value in spending time with each team member individually to mentor them and provide opportunities to learn and grow.
The final vital is Freedom. Freedom is a leadership vital? Yes, even for leaders within organizations, Freedom is a vital for action-oriented leadership. Freedom does not necessarily mean that you leave the company or become free of all responsibilities and duties. Freedom is the ability to choose how you spend your time and where you place your awareness. It is something leaders must continuously work toward. When you don’t personally align with the purpose of your work Vision, your leadership lacks energy and dedication.
Real Freedom as a leader comes with responsibility. However, Freedom is different than just having any responsibility because Freedom involves having responsibility that you are interested in and passionate about. Leaders that work toward Freedom and achieve it in their work lead with authenticity, dedication, and alignment. As you progress through the vitals, you may learn what your Freedom really is, whether with this job, this team, or you need to adjust. This final vital is deeply personal; however, as you work toward your Freedom, you’ll lead by example in helping and encouraging your team members to do the same.
As you work through these vitals for successful leadership, you’ll find that you come into more alignment as a leader. You’ll find that your personal and professional lives integrate more. You’ll find that you can make progress with more ease and enthusiasm.
Reflect on the seven vitals. Where do you feel you and your team could use some extra focus in order to come into more alignment and make more impactful progress? You can learn essential exercises for putting the vitals into action in the Awake Leadership guidebook. It’s important to keep these vitals in check in order to make progress.
Using the Seven Vitals and Keeping Them in Check
How can you remember to return to the vitals? How can you begin to put the seven vitals into action?
The staircase of Awake Leadership is a powerful metaphor for reminding yourself, as a leader, to check your leadership vitals in order to progress. Each color on a round of the staircase represents a different vital. Each day represents upward progress when you’re working toward your vision and working through the leadership vitals. The staircase reminds leaders to keep the seven vitals in check as you make both individual and collective progress.
The staircase is a spiral rather than a linear staircase because the seven vitals are not a system you work through just once. It is an iterative process. It’s a feedback loop. You will continue to find yourself re-looking at your Vision (red) as well as the other vitals, but you will have made upward progress since the last time. Continue working through the vitals as there is a need to focus on each to move forward with your team. True leadership requires awareness paired with action. Action-oriented leaders balance pauses for clarity and pauses for feedback with intentional action.
Also, though the vitals build on each other and follow a logic progression, you may find that a certain vital is best to begin with and focus on. They are all connected and it’s not required to focus on them in a linear way. After reviewing the vitals, chose where to begin by considering: Where are your challenges are stemming from? Is your Vision clear? Does each person have the right support to focus and contribute? Have you provided the right Structure and Tools? Do you spend time educating on Context, providing Inspiration for your self and your team, and working toward your Freedom? Choose the vital that will help you to realign and move forward.
Lead Your Team Toward Individual and Collective Progress
Action-oriented leaders use this navigation system as an aid for awareness and progress. Awareness cultivates clarity and aligned, effective action. Once you have identified which vital is imbalanced and what you need to focus on to align and motivate your team, do the associated exercises in the Awake Leadership guidebook. In the Awake Leadership guidebook, learn the individual and team exercises for putting each of the seven vitals into action.
Over time, the seven vitals and exercises for clarity and creativity will bring out your authentic leadership qualities necessary to lead your team successfully. Each time you reach Freedom, you’ll realize that your team is more productive and engaged. You’ll realize that your current version of Freedom informs your Vision plan. Instead of aspiring to certain leadership qualities, focus on the seven leadership vitals. Begin your journey up the spiral staircase. Enjoy the process and the results!
To learn the Awake Leadership system of seven vitals for action-oriented leadership and begin your journey up the spiral staircase, check out the Awake Leadership guidebook. The guidebook contains individual and team exercises for putting the vitals into action everyday. The Awake Leadership guidebook is now available in both print and on Amazon Kindle!
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