Leadership is about setting an example; not just about making decisions, it’s also about the signals and messages that leaders send to their team. These signals can have a significant impact on the success of an organization, team, or project.
Leadership signals come in many forms, such as verbal communication, body language, decision-making, and actions. When leaders send positive signals, they can create a sense of motivation and inspiration within their team. On the other hand, negative signals can lead to a demotivated team, poor performance, and even failure.
Houston we have a problem
As seen in the movie Apollo 13, one example of the importance of leadership signals is the Apollo 13 mission. In 1970, a catastrophic explosion occurred on the spacecraft, putting the lives of the astronauts in danger. The mission control team had to work quickly to bring the astronauts back safely to Earth. The team was under immense pressure and stress, and the leadership signals they received from their superiors were critical to their success.
As seen in the movie Apollo 13, Gene Kranz, the flight director, sent a clear message to his team that failure was not an option. He communicated this message through his words, actions, and body language. He made it clear that they were a team and that they were all in it together. He demonstrated a sense of urgency and encouraged his team to work together to find a solution. This message created a sense of purpose and motivation within the team, and they were able to successfully bring the astronauts back to Earth.
Another example of the importance of leadership signals is from the famous Stanford prison experiment. In this experiment, college students were randomly assigned to be either a guard or a prisoner in a simulated prison environment. The experiment was designed to last for two weeks but had to be ended after only six days due to the extreme and abusive behavior of the guards.
The study demonstrated the power of the signals sent by the leaders of the prison. The guards were given complete control over the prisoners, and this power dynamic led to abusive and inhumane treatment. The leaders of the prison set the tone and culture of the environment, and their signals had a profound impact on the behavior of their subordinates.
Leaders and managers send out signals, for example, when they say thank you for a job well done – the signal is “your work is appreciated”. Having a “closed door” vs an “open door” policy sends out strong signals to employees in terms of the accessibility of the leader.
The signals you send are important
So, what are some action steps that leaders can take to send positive signals to their team?
- Awareness: Leaders must be aware of the signals they are sending. They must be mindful of their communication, body language, and actions. They must ask themselves if the signals they are sending are aligned with their values and the goals of the organization.
- Transparency and honesty: Leaders should prioritize transparency and honesty. When leaders are transparent, they send a signal that they trust and respect their team. This trust can lead to increased motivation and a stronger sense of commitment.
- Celebrate small wins: Leaders should celebrate small wins. When leaders acknowledge and celebrate the small victories of their team, it sends a signal that progress is being made and that their efforts are appreciated.
Bottom line: The signals that leaders send are critical to the success of a team or organization. Leaders must be mindful of the signals they are sending and ensure that they are aligned with their values and the goals of the organization. They should prioritize transparency and celebrate small wins to create a culture of motivation and commitment within their team.