With the increase in popularity, and effectiveness, of ‘working from home’ as a standard operating procedure in many not-for-profit organisations clear instructions from you as the leader are always needed to establish a creative environment. Moreover, my organisation, which has members/impact in 87 countries across the world, often sees my staff travelling and operating in different time zones and often the other side of the world where they need to have the flexibility to make decisions and not waste time.
This is nothing new. Over fifteen years ago Celia Sandys wrote in ‘We Shall Not Fail’ that “Flexibility and swift reactions are essential to cope with the rapidly changing situations”. A fast dynamic environment today makes it even more important to those tasked with getting results to have a loose rein. The people tasked need to be able to react to constant change with little or no need for further guidance from you as their leader.
As an excellent example of this Sandys describes in her book a directive issued by Winston Churchill to General Alexander on August 8, 1942, during the crucial North African campaign. After a series of failures in leadership, dismissals, poor morale, and battlefield defeats Churchill wrote to General Alexander, as the new commander-in-chief, one of the shortest, broadest, strategic objectives ever written:
“Your prime and main duty will be to take or destroy at the earliest opportunity the German-Italian army commanded by Field Marshal Rommel together with all its supplies and establishments in Egypt and Libya.”
Such brief instructions encourage successful outcomes and give subordinates leeway in achieving objectives and is always a positive demonstration of your confidence in them.
As proof positive of this General Alexander, in just 9 months, was able to report back to Churchill, “It is my duty to report that the campaign is over. All enemy resistance has ceased. We are the masters of North African shores.” Even his reply was as succinct as his original directive!