Putting together the leadership puzzle

Like a puzzle master, leaders are most effective when they show us how the pieces fit together.

Regardless of the type of organization, the first and primary purpose of leadership influence is to achieve organizational goals. We know that every organization has goals, or an organizational mission, which is essentially the reason that the organization exists. The role of any leader within an organization is to apply influence in the effort to improve the motivation and performance of those within the organization, which helps move the organization toward the achievement of its mission. The more effective we are in the application of our leadership influence, the closer we will come to achieving our goals for the organization.

The key link between leadership influence and the organizations mission is the leaders understanding of the essential human need we all have to belong to something greater than ourselves. Whether it is as a part of a team, a group, or a multi-national organization; we all want to be a part of an effort that aspires to do great things. Whenever we are a part of a sports team or a group of community volunteers that comes together to achieve their goals, we feel inspired and satisfied. The same is true for organizations. With a shared mission, and with effective leadership to motivate us and show us the way, we will try harder, work longer, and do more.

It is critically important, however, that we don’t confuse organizational goals with other ancillary outcomes of the organization. For example, making a profit is not an organizational goal for a private business; it is the by-product of the achievement of the organizations goals. Similarly, attaining a certain arrest or conviction rate is not an organizational goal for a police agency, it is an outcome that can be achieved through the pursuit of the mission of the organization. The purpose of the organizational mission is to take the organization to a higher level, and to inspire its members to reach for more than just measured outputs.

As an example, in 1980 Steve Jobs created the first mission statement for the Apple Computer Company. That mission statement read, “To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind.” (Imagine being hired in the early days of Apple Computer and being told, “This is your goal.”) With a mission statement that provided a visionary goal, and with Steve Jobs’ guiding leadership influence, is it any wonder Apple stands as one of the world’s most innovative organizations, and has defined the use and market of personal electronics? (By the way, they also make a profit.)

Apple is a great example of how an organizations mission statement establishes the vision and purpose for its members. But the mission statement alone is simply a lofty ideal without the influence of leadership. Much a like a puzzle in the box, the mission exists but can’t be clearly seen by everyone until we start to put the pieces together.

Just like the late Steve Jobs, effective leaders are puzzle masters. They create a puzzle picture of the mission for the organization, then they hand a few pieces of the puzzle to each member and show them what the picture would look like if they all put their pieces in the right place. When the picture is finished and the goals are reached, they applaud those that put it all together and made it work.