The Four Ps of Leadership


Confession: As a new manager I was all about tasks and often managed people like tools. I knew that saws needed sharpening and people needed recognition. I knew that motor oil needed changing and that people needed vacations. This mechanical paradigm allowed people and teams to function successfully, but it lacked the magic of growth and the sense of joy that comes when people create something together. Machines don’t grow. They function. People have the wonderful and amazing ability to grow.

Management tools tend to reinforce this machine mentality, but they don’t have to. Job descriptions, performance reviews, benchmarks, and strategic plans can thrive if we use them to discover how each individual wants to grow. For example, encouraging someone to write their own ideal job description can be a creative exercise. In my experience, almost any job description has flexibility to do something more. If a security guard wants to be a web designer, have them review and proof the company website. If a finance director wants to be a lobbyist, invite them to analyze the financial impacts of pending legislation and provide suggestions for improving it. The point is to help people grow in a direction they desire, while still meeting the organization’s goals.

It seems to me that the key challenge is balance. Yes, we want people to grow because it is meaningful, good and rewarding. At the same time, jobs exist because there is a job to do. Our challenge as leaders is to open people to their potential while still providing structure. The Four P’s of leadership offer a simple reminder for breathing fresh life into the workplace.

Purpose: Why does our organization exist and what is it we are trying to accomplish long term? Case in point: Flagstaff’s City bus system, Mountain Line, exists to connect people to their lives. Increasing bus ridership is one measure of our success, but it is not the reason for being. What is your team’s reason for being?

Passion: What does each person on your team care about? What is their passion? Maybe you have a business manager with a keen interest in health and exercise. While sending them to medical school may be out of the question, can their passion be directed into a company wellness program? Everyone is passionate about something. As manager’s we can help them find it and express it.

Part: Almost everyone would rather be part of something happening than to passively watch while something happens to them. Once we are clear on our purpose and understand the passion of our team members, we need to help people find a part in building success.

Plan: At the end of the day, leadership is still about getting people somewhere. Planning can and should be creative, but it ultimately gets back to mechanical: goals and objectives are designed, assigned, and managed. However, when team members understand our purpose, have a part in the team’s success, and their part is an expression of personal passion, the map becomes a shared and creative process. Work can be a journey rather than a task.

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