Kerry Johnson, one of the authors in Larry Israelite’s book, Lies About Learning, challenges the commonly held myth that leadership is telling people what to do. Rather, he argues, leadership is getting everyone going in the same direction, implementing the same strategy, and continually adapting to change in that strategy. He writes:
Like a good rowing team, high-performing organizations need everyone to pull in the same direction and in unison. Pulling in the same direction requires a clear line of sight to the company strategy from every vantage point. The leader must know how to interpret that strategy at both the team and individual level. (p. 159-160)
Whether line worker or senior executive, people want to and need to know where they are headed. In a turbulent, rapidly changing business world, it is the only thing that provides stability and continuity. Leaders can help everyone adapt to current conditions if the ultimate goal and strategy is clear. Otherwise, the slightest change or setback causes people to make poor decisions. This problem of alignment brings to mind the many employees I have interviewed who had attended a training program, and may have even enjoyed the program, but didn’t have a clue why their bosses had arranged for them to attend.