Don’t Do It Alone: Developing a Shared Sense of Destiny Requires We’re all on the Same Sheet of Music

same sheet of music

Leaders know that they can’t do it alone. They need partners to make extraordinary things happen in organizations. Leaders invest in creating trustworthy relationships. They build spirited and cohesive teams, teams that feel like family. They actively involve others in planning and give them the discretion to make their own decisions. Leaders make others feel like owners, not hired hands. Leaders develop collaborative goals and cooperative relationships with colleagues. They are considerate of the needs and interests of others. They know that these relationships are the keys that unlock support. Leaders bring people together, creating an atmosphere where people understand that they have a shared fate and that they should treat others as they would like to be treated. Leaders make sure that everyone wins. Mutual respect is what sustains extraordinary group efforts. Leaders nurture self-esteem in others. They make others feel strong, capable, and confident to take both initiative and responsibility. They build the skills and abilities of their constituents to deliver on commitments. They create a climate where people feel in control of their own lives.

I fully believe in the above paragraph although I have all too often violated the factors laid out in that same paragraph and tried to go it alone. Not intentionally I must add but, once I got the feeling the status quo and this is the way we have always done this and there’s no need to change was the prevailing mindset, I swayed from trying to inspire and evolve a more adaptable approach to policing to a more robust strategy of, this stuff works either your on board or you’re not. Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way is how I came across. The problem with this robust strategy is the vision you have imagined for everyone has become your single minded vision and this approach I believe alienates and drives resistance verses the cooperation you are actually looking for. In the end for an organization to fulfill a vision it must be a shared vision. This takes time and effort and more importantly it takes influencing others to a shared sense of destiny.

Anyone who has made an effort at continuous improvement in an organization understands you have spent a lot of time developing a vision for the future. How do you see your police department in the future? How do we operate? What type of strategy do we utilize? What type of tactics do we use? What type of people do we hire? How do we educate and train these people? How do we build community trust? We spent all this time and effort because we understand the potent effects a clearly defined vision can have on an organization i.e. job satisfaction, motivation, commitment, loyalty, esprit de corps, clarity about the organizations values, pride in the organization and organizational productivity (teamwork). How do we bring our vision to life? How do we put our words into action and develop a shared destiny?

In their seminal book The Leadership Challenge by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner state that their research on envisioning a future and enlisting others, taught them:

“In the personal best cases that we collected, people frequently talked about the need to get buy-in on the vision, to enlist others in the dream. People talked about how they had to communicate the purpose and build support for the direction. It’s not enough for a leader to have a vision, the members of the organization must understand, accept and commit to vision. When they do, the organization’s ability to change and reach its potential soars.
Simply put, you have to teach others your vision. Teaching a vision and confirming that the vision is shared is a process of engaging constituents in conversations about their lives, about their hopes and dreams. Remember leadership is a dialog, not a monologue. Leadership isn’t about imposing the leader’s solo dream; it’s about developing a shared sense of destiny. It’s about enrolling others so that they can see how their own interests and aspirations are aligned with the vision and can thereby become mobilized to commit their individual energies to its realization. A vision is inclusive of constituents aspirations; it’s an ideal and unique image of the future for the common good.”

Clearly teaching others about the vision produces powerful results. Yet this leadership practice all too often stops on paper filed away or a plaque hung on a wall. “He whose ranks are united in purpose will be victorious said Sun Tzu 2500 years ago. The message on shared visions is very old and very clear yet developing a common outlook and purpose is all too often seen as fluff or smoke and mirrors. I challenge you to stop just for a few minutes and think about how you look at the future of policing. Are you really that far off in your vision from those working around you? If you’re so divided, why? If you have harmony in the organizations, why is that?

Without insight and vision there can be no orientation to deal with both present and future. Without focus and direction, implied or explicit, there can be neither harmony of effort nor initiative for vigorous effort. Too be successful as an organization we must all be on the same sheet of music and a clearly defined shared vision helps to do just that.

Stay Oriented!
Fred