I'm sat in Milano airport after a fantastic Easter weekend waiting for our delayed flight home! Being relaxed, revitalised and reflective it has at least given me time to reflect on the key leadership principles I'm seeing successful leaders follow in today's volatile, uncertain, competitive and ambiguous world. One thing is for sure they know how to create a high performance environment where success is inevitable! How are they doing this...
1. They lead with PURPOSE. They understand that everything in the organisation has to align to the purpose, reason for being, customer promise, proposition, mission, or whatever you call it in your business. They make decisions around it and ensure people see and understand the connection between purpose and actions taken. They also understand that to deliver the purpose it is done through people, so they have realised it is all about ensuring people feel engaged and enabled for success. The bottom line is that positive feelings = great performance. I wonder why so many struggling managers do the opposite and create negative feelings! Why would you do that?
2. They create MEANING. Great leaders have the ability to communicate in a way that engages people and creates collective energy for success. They are storytellers, they translate strategy into meaningful action. They create organisational tribes who go out and make a difference.
3. They promote INNOVATION in every aspect of the business. They understand the rules have been re written, customers want more from less, Managers as well come to think about it! Employee expectations are changing too. Successful Leaders today understand that the exponential increase in the speed of change has given tremendous opportunities when Innovation is part of the organisational DNA. They realise that it is not just about product innovation anymore, it is about innovation in everything the business does from business modelling, partnering, the customer journey, to how they run meetings, build teams, lead, make decisions, buy things, etc.
4. They know how to build high performance TEAMS - fast! Team working and collaboration has become vital to success, it is not an option anymore. In a foggy world where leaders have to lead without knowing the answers, leading from the front not from the top, it is crucial to know how to build teams that have high trust, agility, purpose, and can deliver results quickly. Project teams, cross functional teams, virtual teams, global teams, multiple cultural teams, problem solving teams, and cross company teams to name a few!
5. They know how to LEARN. Successful leaders know that promoting organisational learning is a key part of their role and future success. They create time for individual and team reflection and learning - they are the Zen Masters of action learning! They know how to learn from success and failure. They know how to conceptualise feedback and review data to understand why things happen and what to do to improve. They also know how to use technology to help and create organisational learning and then spread it across the organisation fast - making it easier for people to learn and grow quickly. By doing this they help create an agile organisation that can deal with ambiguity and one that can adapt quickly to emerging needs and possibilities.
6. They spend time ALIGNING the organisation. They understand the power of systems thinking. Creating a clear emerging strategy is one thing, communicating it with meaning is another, the next step is to ensure the whole organisation is aligned in the same direction. Keeping things clear and simple they know the importance of ensuring things like rewards are aligned to the behaviours required, the leadership model support the values, ways of working support goal attainment and living the values etc. The constantly review that action and behaviour is right, if not they don't blame the individuals they look at the system and ask why - then realign quickly.
7. They spend time EDUCATING. With the exponential speed of change affecting us so much successful leaders understand how important it is to teach people the new rules, new ways of leading, new ways of innovation, new ways of collaboration etc. They know that one of the best ways to create change is to energise people with new learning and understanding. They have mastered the art of leading through questions, ensuring people are thinking and doing. They can break down the complex and make it easy to understand, they help people deal with paradoxes and promote "and thinking" rather than "or thinking".
8. They DELIVER. By focusing on people, building high trust, building positive team climates, and ensuring people are engaged and enabled, successful leaders know how to deliver the results. They know that implementation is key!
So my flight is boarding and I know there are more principles I'm seeing out there, but I hope this gives you a starter and inspires you to reflect on your own leadership principles. I've only touched the surface here so if you want to know more or want to add other principles you are seeing successful leaders doing please comment in the box below.