According to a famous study conducted by Kouzes and Posner in 2009, the quality that employees admire most in their leader is honesty. What’s more, this is exactly the same quality that employees admire first and foremost among their colleagues. In other words, honesty is probably the rarest asset there is in business. More interestingly for leaders, the second quality that employees admire most in them is their ability to have a vision, and this second quality is, conversely, that which differentiates them the most from what is admired among other employees. How can you develop your strategic vision whether you are a company manager or a simple team leader? Many management books have been written on the subject, but let’s take a look at some literature and, in particular, the story of an ambitious young man who wants to become a musketeer, as we try to answer this question:
“Porthos,” said Aramis, “Athos has already told you, you are a fool, and I agree with him. D’Artagnan, you are a great man, and when you are Monsieur de Treville’s successor, I shall ask you for your influence to get me an abbey.”
— “Well, I’m certainly confused,” said Porthos; do you mean to say you approve of what d’Artagnan has just done?”
— Good Lord, of course I do,” retorted Athos. I not only approve of what he has done, but I also congratulate him on it.”
— “And now, gentlemen,” said D’Artagnan, without troubling to explain his conduct to Porthos, “All for one and one for all – that’s our motto, isn’t it?”
— “But,” said Porthos.
— “Hold up your hand and swear!” Athos commanded. And Aramis echoed him.
Overcome by the example of his comrades, but grumbling to himself, Porthos lifted his hand, and the four friends repeated with one voice the slogan dictated by d’Artagnan.
“All for one and one for all!” »
— “Fine!” “Now let each of us go to his own home, “said d’Artagnan, as if he had never done anything all his life but give orders. “And remember – from this moment on we are at war with the Cardinal!”
Let’s summarise the situation. D’Artagnan, a young Gascon barely out of his teens, has taken the leadership in just a few weeks over three valiant and experienced musketeers, the elite soldiers of the King of France. How did he do it?
1st step: Give meaning to the actions of your employees
Earlier on in the same chapter, d’Artagnan begins by giving meaning to everyone’s action. He promises them money, adventures. But above all, he gives a greater purpose to their joint action: the fate of France and the Queen in particular. He also reminds his friends of their common enemy: Cardinal Richelieu, the historical enemy of the musketeers: “for our true, our only, our eternal enemy, gentlemen, is the cardinal, and if we could find means to play him a sharp turn, I confess that I would voluntarily risk my head in doing it.”To give meaning to action, a common goal must be set. It is undoubtedly dangerous to do this too soon but it is always effective to remember enemies that we share at just the right time.
2nd step: Unite your teams around your vision
In the leadership course followed by HEC Paris students, they are taught to look at organisations from three angles: structure, culture and power. Here d’Artagnan organises the structure of his team very quickly: everyone understands their place within the group, knows what to do and how to do it. He very quickly understands the codes of the musketeers who he only joined with a few weeks ago and he blends seamlessly into the shared culture. He also very quickly understands the strengths and weaknesses and sources of motivation of each of the musketeers: it’s women for Aramis, fine food for Porthos and honour for Athos.
3rd step: Implement specific actions to make your vision a reality.
The famous motto “All for one and one for all” appears only once in the whole of Dumas’ book. However it has become universally known and this is probably because it embodies the values of the musketeers better than any other speech or feat of arms could and it brings them together. To ensure your teams adhere to your vision, you need to implement concrete actions in terms of structure (who does what), of culture (norms and symbols within the group) and power relations (what are the strengths and weaknesses of each person and the alliances within the group). Since valour does not depend upon age, D’Artagnan finds the best motto for ensuring the three musketeers sign up to his plans: “All for one and one for all”.