Aké Satia is the Chief Vision Officer at Aké Satia, a Human Capital firm in the DC area focused on strengthening organizations by bolstering the intersection of people strategy and business strategy.



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How a Leader Thinks!

Last week, we embarked on a new path to understand and learn how to support future generations. And this exploration led to the question: What is the responsibility of older generations in a world filled with choices? Furthermore, how can we, collectively and independently, serve, steward, and shepherd young generations? You may read more here: The Great Paradox! – BLOG – www.akesatia.com 

Today, we will loop back to the path we were on a couple of weeks ago: The Mindset of Leadership, defined as service, stewardship, and shepherding. A common question asked by people who are promoted to, or desire leadership roles is: What does a leader do? Given the vast array of responsibilities leaders bear based on industries, verticals, and organizations, it is valuable to discern the underlying question. And that is: How does a leader think?

Notably, this is especially valuable because when one holds a leadership position, one receives direction on what to do, such as the goals to hit and the metrics to meet. However, rarely is one guided on how to think. And this is arguably the most valuable know-how a leader can possess. Because though an organizational leader is accountable for the result, they are often not responsible for all the necessary actions. Therefore, they have to work through others.
Now, you may be thinking: How does this materialize? And to bring this to life, we will zero in on three invaluable concepts for one in a leadership role or one who aspires to lead.

Leaders are not owners of talent.

First, let us start by busting a myth that pervades the minds of some in leadership positions. And that is the notion that: leaders (and organizations) own talent. This perspective is dangerous because when we claim ownership, as in the case of a house, we impose our will upon the object… We design and decorate our houses how we wish without regard for their preference. And we feel justified in doing so because houses are objects that we purchase and own.
But as we know, humans do not own humans. And organizations are composed of humans. Therefore, one must embrace the reality that while leaders guide and oversee work, leaders do not own the talent that performs the work. And neither do organizations or companies. And this is reinforced by the use of employment agreements. 

In the good old days, many finalized agreements with a handshake or a verbal promise. But those days are long gone. Today, most employment agreements and accompanying documents include the terms for exchanging services for monetary compensation and expectations. One such expectation is compliance!

Beyond checking off a box!

The utterance of the word: compliance does not sit well with many. Much less the idea of enforcing it. Because for many, compliance measures entail tasks they perceive to be mundane or pointless. Such as completing expense reports or attending required readiness sessions by a specific deadline. Essentially, compliance seems to be about checking off a box! Mistakenly, after checking off a box, some conclude that meeting the compliance requirement is all one needs to do. But is that the case? Is checking off a box sufficient?

To make this real, let us consider a familiar health scenario!
We are halfway into the annual year! As is typical, many have shoved their Lululemon workout gear and gym membership cards in their closets. But with summer around the corner, some will inevitably decide to get in tip-top shape and sport the 2023 swimwear collection.

To kick off the impending summer season, you host a neighborhood barbecue! With an endless supply of Shish kebabs, mini burgers, summer wines, fruit salads, ice cream, and brownies, you worked hard on this barbecue. And you are ready to impress! On a sunny Saturday afternoon, the guests arrive in your backyard.

All eyes on Marie!

Once everyone is seated, your next-door neighbor, Marie, suddenly announces that she has joined the summer weight loss crew, resumed her gym membership, and hired a fitness coach. Upon hearing this, you think: Wow! Marie is serious this year! She is loosening her purse strings and putting her money where her mouth is! And Marie continues to share… She says she met with her fitness coach the prior week. And after examining her personal goals and completing various tests, he advised her to consume 1600 calories daily and work out five days a week. Also, she states that she burns 1900 calories daily. Therefore, consuming 1600 calories would result in a daily deficit of 300 calories. And this would enable her to meet her target weight goal. 

As Marie divulges, your eyes remain glued to her plate because she is feverishly chowing down on multiple bowls of her favorite ice cream: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough! Then, later in the evening, she requests to take the left-over ice cream tubs home. 

The Critical Piece!

When the guests leave, as you clean up, you cannot get your mind off Marie’s weight loss plan. And you wonder if her fitness coach covered a vital detail: What she eats! Because as we all know, 1600 calories of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream does not have the same effect as a balanced diet of 1600 calories.
And this reveals an underlying challenge with confusing compliance standards for the ultimate goal. Often, compliance standards are table stakes. And to excel, one needs to look beyond the compliance bar and focus on the critical need.

As with Marie’s weight loss endeavors, in business, knowing why one would benefit from taking action is more beneficial than simply knowing what to do. As a result, it is invaluable when leaders go beyond stating a metric and help employees understand the value of meeting a metric. Because when one believes an action is worthwhile, one is more likely to get committed and follow through. And this, in turn, allows a leader to focus on supporting rather than enforcing.

I have a hunch most of us see value in aiming beyond compliance standards. And this propels us to do more than an annual physical exam to care for our health or an emissions test to care for our vehicles. But why do we do more? We do more because we care. 

Giving a Hoot, aka Caring.

In many organizations, one rarely hears the concept of caring discussed as a core leadership tenet. Indeed, we are more likely to hear organizational leaders talk about caring for customers than caring for workers. And there is a good reason why! Frequently, the focus is on the customer because they are the primary source of revenue. Or they are considered: the reason why the business stays in business. 

However, customers do not walk into a business, source a product, develop a service, place an order, send an invoice to themselves, settle the bill, and walk out. Customers rely on workers to conduct the tasks above. Essentially, they rely on workers to meet their needs. Therefore, it benefits a leader to remember that though a leader is accountable for results, workers are often responsible for the results.  And this is another reason why it is vital to care for workers.

Admittedly, caring is considered a tender emotion. Perhaps, this is why many do not use the words: care and employees in the same sentence. Why would they if their organization stresses that relationships between employees and leaders should be strictly professional? And they, unfortunately, interpret that to mean work is a no-tenderness and no-fragility zone. Aka, an environment where one cannot be authentic and needs to wear a mask!

However, caring is not about being mushy and soft. Because while caring signifies warmth and tenderness, caring for and about others also requires immense strength. And peering into the origin of the word reveals an insight. The word: care comes from the Old English word: caru and refers to providing for, looking out for, or protecting someone. To care for someone is to dedicate oneself to them and to pay attention to their needs. Caring for Others Is Caring for Ourselves – Exploring Your Mind

The worthy and high bar.

Irrefutably, to care for another is a high bar. But the warmth and strength one exudes when one cares enables another to know they are valued. And this is vital in building trust personally and professionally. Also, demonstrating care is service, stewardship, and shepherding at its best. – A hallmark of leadership! 

And we revisit our burning question: How does a leader think?

True leaders do not seek to own talent or uphold a minimum bar. Instead, they know that the undeniable value they can provide is to set aside their ego, care for others, and aim beyond checking off boxes. And they think accordingly.

For you and to you,



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