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The importance of shared goals and identity

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The importance of shared goals and identity

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Strategy is a big thing for most organisations, and the goals established by that strategic process filter down throughout the company to determine behaviours and actions and expectations.  I’ve written a few times previously about the valuable role social business can play in this process.

For instance, some INSEAD research found that people are much more likely to follow a strategy if they’ve had a hand in crafting it.  A second study, conducted by Washington University, found that the most effective leaders were the ones that best embodied the goals of the organisation.

A third study from the University of Queensland brings those two findings together.  It reveals that it isn’t enough for the leader to embody the goals of the organisation if those goals aren’t aligned with the goals of employees.  The leader, they say, has to embody the goals of the entire group.  It also suggests that these ideological bonds are far more important than many of the social or personality led bonds that organisations try and foster via company social activities.

“Our research shows that although some people have strong personal bonds with their leaders, many don’t,” the researchers says.

“Surprisingly though, the basis for this sense of closeness proves to be not how much time we spend with our leaders, or even how much we like them as individuals, but how much we feel they represent our shared group interests.

“For these bonds to develop, what matters is that leaders identify with our team as a whole and that employees see the leader as embodying what that team stands for,” they continue.

The study provides yet more evidence of the kind of thing I wrote about yesterday, when a study explored the close personal bond that exists between Lady Gaga and her little monsters.  A bond forged by the strong shared identity existing between her and her followers.

The Australian study reinforces the message that this connection has to exist over something meaningful to both parties.

“This means that even in the absence of any personal encounters with a leader, we experience a close connection when we sense that we share an affiliation to the same social group,” they say.

In yesterdays post I highlighted four general rules that are useful when considering identity and leadership.  They bare repeating here.

Rule 1 – Do you reflect your team?  

Psychological research has shown that leaders succeed when they reflect the characteristics of their team.  The more you are seen as ‘one of us’ by your team, the more likely you are to be able to lead them successfully.

Rule 2 - Do you champion your team?  

As well as being seen to reflect your followers, you also need to be championing them.  Too often leaders are seen to be in it just for themselves, and it’s therefore not surprising that their leadership capabilities are weak.  Leaders need to advance the collective interests of their followers in order to lead them well.

Rule 3 – Do you create this identity?  

Leaders don’t tend to wait for leadership to be bestowed upon them.  Instead they create the opportunity by forging the shared identities and policies of their group.

Rule 4 – Do you turn vision into reality?

Leaders should be able to show results in order to achieve a devoted following.  Shallow rhetoric might work for a short while, but followers want to see you can translate your words into reality.

Can you be a leader without those things?  I’d say not.  Can you be a social business without those things?  I think we both know the answer to that.

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