During my long career, it’s been my privilege and pleasure to work for, and with, many great and very successful leaders (and a few not-so-great or successful ones as well). Now, anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m very analytical; I need to answer the ‘why’ question, and if I can’t, it drives me crazy. My preferred way to do this is by ‘chunking’ something up, and in my area of expertise (sales), I find this easy to do, but in the world of leadership, I struggled with this question for many years; then I met James Scouller. In his excellent book on the subject, James chunks leadership up into four elements. Understanding these enabled me to see ‘why’ the people I referred to above are great leaders. Taking each of James’ four elements in turn…
- Motivating Purpose: In every role I’ve known them in, they have always had a clearly defined and communicated (and co-created) ‘motivating purpose’. Their reason ‘why’!
- Task, Progress & Results: Their ability to drive execution on that motivating purpose was, and remains, razor sharp. This is the area that James believes, and I concur, many leaders focus on at the expense of everything else.
- Group Unity: In every case, they are brilliant at creating and maintaining ‘group unity’. Whilst none of them has ever shied away from making tough decisions, I’ve never heard a bad word said about any of them, directly or indirectly.
- Attention to Individuals: Alongside group unity, they are also brilliant at focusing on individuals, ensuring that everyone feels valued and appreciated. They always talk about ‘we’ and ‘us’; rarely, if ever, about ‘I’ and ‘me’.
In each case, their excellence across all the above results in a very ‘inclusive’ leadership style, or mode of engagement. They all share the belief that, by harnessing the collective wisdom of their workforce, they can better understand (and even measure) what is going on in their business, enabling them to concisely identify and implement any change required, safe in the knowledge that people will ‘buy in’ to whatever needs to be done. I can think of at least one outstanding example of this in practice during 2016, with numerous others during the time Get to Great has been in business.
Ultimately, leadership is best measured by results, and the leaders I refer to have been, and continue to be, very successful, but they’ve not done this on their own; the results have been achieved by their whole business. This is largely because, by simultaneously focusing on the four elements described above (and far better in James’ book), they have created an environment whereby that magic ingredient for success – discretionary effort – is freely given; after all, discretionary effort is just that, discretionary, and leaders who fail to create an environment where this happens will not achieve long-term success.
I hate to dwell on the negative, but when I think of some of the ‘not-so-great’ leaders I’ve experienced, the lack of some, if not all the above, is the common thread.
Phew! Thanks to James, I’ve answered my ‘why’ question, and hopefully, given anyone who reads this food for thought.