This is the first of a short series of pieces stimulated by “How to act and think like a leader” a blog posting by Herminia Ibarra.
In this posting Herminia writes of the important leadership activity of being a bridge between their department, service or outpost and the rest of the organisation.
My recent experience reinforces to me how important this activity is to successful leadership. A leader must be an ambassador for their team within the wider organisation. The leader needs to build the right bridges at the right time and needs to ensure that the bridges that they build are and continue to be connected at each end and that the bridge is well maintained.
For the bridge to remain strong and connected a leader needs to establish trust as a vital support:
Trust is born out of being credible; do people believe in what you can do, being reliable; do you do what you say, and having good intent; is the balance between being self-serving and serving others right. If trust fails at either end of the bridge it will become disconnected or collapse.
Trust, like a bridge needs to be maintained. This maintainence needs to be proactive not reactive, a programme of preventaive maintainence needs to be followed. A leader needs to have an eye on the future to ensure that the bridge is fit to carry any loads that may need to cross it.
Preparing for both the upside and the downside of uncertainties is not incompatible. Thus in the early 1960s the designers of the bridge across the Tagus at Lisbon built in both seismic protection against the known historical possibility of earthquakes, and extra strength to allow for double-decking of the bridge in case traffic ever expanded substantially. Some twenty years later, the Portuguese exercised this option to double- deck the bridge – a design first (Gesner and Jardim, 1998). To deal fully with the uncertainty implicit in future thinking, (a leader) cannot only focus on risk management; (he or she) must also manage opportunities.