Top performing, passionate people still need direction, focus and a purpose. The most common source for those three prerequisites for success is an effective leader. Without effective leadership even top performers lose the motivation the use their skills and abilities.
They can get simple direction from a manager, they can even be somewhat forced to focus but their purpose becomes clear only when there is a vision to work towards. Vision casting is a prime responsibility of an effective leader.
People will put forth effort for mere money… for a while. Money alone however has proven to be a poor motivator for top performers. People are most productive when they know that they are making a difference. Working towards a vision shows them where and how they can make a difference.
If the vision can’t be articulated by the leader then there might as well not be a vision. If the vision isn’t shared often then that too is nearly as bad as not having a vision at all.
Leaders are role models as well – good or bad. They should not expect to see more effort from their people than they are willing to offer themselves. They should not expect better decisions or more prudent risk-taking than they put forth as leaders.
If you’re in a leadership position then you absolutely MUST know that your people are watching you… always. They watch to see if your words match your actions. (They do what you do, not what you say) They watch to see if you’re committed enough to the vision and if they determine that you’re not then they will not commit to you.
If they cannot commit to you then they will not commit to the vision. People, especially top performing people, commit to a leader before they commit to the leader’s vision.
The energy that makes good people top performers turns on itself without direction, focus and purpose. When that happens top performers go sour, become ineffective and they eventually leave the leader…. or worse, they stay with the leader and simply stop performing.
Leadership matters, it always has and it always will. Without effective leadership even promising top performers will struggle to reach their potential.
If you’re in a leadership position then you not only have the opportunity to lead, you have an obligation to lead. If you can’t or won’t meet that obligation then you owe it to your would be followers, and even to yourself, to step aside and let a real leader take over.