Leadership is widely recognized as including a broad set of skills critical for individual and organizational success. It’s so critical a skillset that articles about it are ubiquitous: we are ever-diligent in reading, writing and discussing definitions of leadership, leadership attributes, who are the best leaders and what great leaders do and don’t do.
But, what is Leadership? Kevin Kruse provided the best definition of leadership I’ve seen, in his article on Forbes, “What is Leadership?” where he shares the wisdom of Drucker, Bennis, Gates and Maxwell and then provides his own excellent definition: “Leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.” Read his article in its entirety at http://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinkruse/2013/04/09/what-is-leadership/ .
Today’s article focuses on 3 dimensions of Leadership that significantly impact organizational performance:
1. Credibility – that fosters trust and confidence throughout the organization
2. People–skills – that move employees through change and enable people to find meaning and purpose at work, operating from both personal and organizational perspectives
3. Influence – that drives a powerfully persistent focus on the business strategy, among individual, teams and organization-wide
Experience shows that leadership credibility is powerful in drawing investors because it is a reliable indicator of strong financial performance. Leadership credibility helps to build and sustain the trust and confidence of the workforce. Leadership credibility is so powerful it can build excitement among employees to achieve higher performance. People want credible leaders and respond to that leadership with commitment. How do leaders develop and maintain such credibility? Is it about saying what you mean? Walking the talk? Dedicating time to being present in each department, getting to know people and to understand what they do? Is it having strong, ever-current knowledge of the business, the industry? I recommend the landmark book by James Kouzes and Barry Posner, “Credibility”. What must leaders do to earn credibility?
Communication and interaction require people-skills. How can leaders make a difference without doing both in ways that connect with people’s hearts and minds? An organization’s capacity to change is essential for its sustainability. Strategic direction and objectives must flex and adjust based on changing market needs. Internally, change is needed in order to align the organization’s activities, structure, processes, decision making, operations and leadership practices with its competitive strategy or value proposition. And, change is an integral partner of innovation, learning, and improvement, all of which are fundamental to any organization. What, in your own experience, has differentiated leaders, enabled one leader to rise above the rest in driving organizational success?
The third dimension of leadership that impacts business performance is influence. An article in Harvard Business Review in June, 2013, “When CEOs Talk Strategy Is Anyone Listening?” cites a survey in which only 29% of employees in companies with clearly articulated strategies had taken in the information. Here is a link to the article: http://hbr.org/2013/06/when-ceos-talk-strategy-is-anyone-listening/ar/1
Leaders must embed communication about the strategy and strategic performance results into the work environment, the cultural DNA. This means developing interesting, informative and creative ways to make the strategy come alive with meaning for all employees. Communication on the strategy needs to be systematic – as a routine part of meetings, newsletters, visuals, the décor, the culture. This can only be accomplished through a well planned effort and the involvement of leaders at all levels, especially the CEO, whose personal influence, communication and interactions cannot be sacrificed in the process; practices such as cascading strategic information often-times dilute both the message and the positive power and influence of the senior executive. While cascading efficiently supports communication, there is no substitute for the personal touch and visibility of the President/CEO.
Leadership is the 2nd of 5 Keys to effective strategy execution. They are:
1. Strategic Understanding
3. Activities and Structure
4. Balanced Metrics aka Strategy Map
5. Human Capital
Together with Market Discipline, these comprise the recipe for successful strategic performance. Our next article will focus on Activities and Structure.
How does your organization measure up in Credibility, People-Skills and Influence? What examples can you share? Are there other dimensions of leadership that you’d add? Please share your opinions, experience and knowledge by commenting.