I have a mandate. More specifically I have a Mandate Card. It is not a real card of course, but rather it is one I made myself. I cropped and scaled a photograph to the size of a playing card and printed it off. It only has two words. Leadership Mandate.
Arguably my mandate would be clearer if it was longer. Leadership is either the collective of individuals who are leaders in an organization or it is the actual action of leading an organization.
Mandate is either an official order to do something (a noun), or it is when we are given ability to act in a certain way (a verb). Either way, I have a mandate card. I can look at it. Use it. Or I can share it with others.
My own view is that mandate as ‘an order’ doesn’t work anything like as well as mandate as ‘given ability’. Orders are normally given to elicit action. This tends to work best in more ‘command and control’ environments – the military is a good example, or even some sports teams. The leader or coach, or commander or captain mandates a way to act or play and the unit or team performs accordingly and dutifully to deliver their goals.
In most organisations our actions are based on our beliefs and our beliefs in turn are based on our experiences. In effect then, this hierarchy means that in any given situation our actions are based on what we believe to be right. We believe intrinsically that our actions are correct…and we assume our actions will deliver the desired or expected outcome.
This beliefs system would go some way to explain why requests alone to act differently are seldom successful.
To change our actions we need to believe in something different or believe in something better. And ideally these beliefs will be based on our own experiences. But this is not easy to achieve. At least not at any pace.
Leaders frequently want their teams to change their actions, but they know it will take time for us all to gain new or different experiences on which to change our beliefs. But great leaders also know (from experience) that simply demanding that actions are changed seldom works.
And this is why I believe in the second definition of mandate – giving permission or authority to act in a certain way – can be so successful.
The fundamental assumption is that in any organisation there will always be individuals and groups desperate to change or to lead change. People who know that the current course (of action) will not work, will not work well enough or will not work fast enough. People who already believe there is another way, but who have not yet had opportunity to experiment.
A Leadership Mandate empowers these individuals. It gives us ability or even permission to act…to act in a different way from how we have felt obliged to act before. Empowerment can be as awesome as it is inspiring. And it will be successful. Rapidly.
So back to my card – mandate – the act of inspiring people to perform and engage in achieving a goal. I use my mandate card to motivate myself. And I have shared a copy with several colleagues. Operating differently from the norm can sometimes feel lonely and even challenging. But this is how creating and seizing opportunity can feel.
A leadership mandate – to act differently in order to create and deliver more opportunity more rapidly. For ourselves, our teams, our respective organisations and our partners.
It won’t necessarily be easy…but absolutely it will be exciting…
…engaging, inspiring and empowering.