It seems that almost every day the financial news is dominated by the likes of Amazon continuing its rise to be the dominant retailer and Microsoft showing it is re-energized around the Cloud and registering financial results that make it look like a startup again.
Examples like these two remind me of some work that was published a couple of years ago in the Harvard Business Review that has really stuck with me. It was focused on uncovering the key behaviors found in the experiences of others who have achieved success. Specifically, the work was based on an in-depth study of and interviews with, individuals who have transformed themselves from mediocrity to highly successful leadership; as evidenced by significant gains for their organization in financial performance, customer approval, and employee engagement. Here are the fundamental characteristics that I gleaned from the analysis:
1,) Ambition and Aspiration – Strong leaders have the ambition to do something of significance, and this causes them to regularly step back, assess the situation via careful analysis, develop a plan for success, modify/refine it via several iterations of input and critique from key people in the organization, and then launch the dream/vision. They take the time to carefully go over with the entire organization what is to be achieved and how they will achieve it, generating enthusiasm and excitement.
2.) Accountability and Responsibility – Realizing that he or she is totally dependent on the people in the organization to achieve the dream, the leader carefully selects the right team and forms the right organizational structure to maximize the chances of success. Specific and challenging responsibilities are assigned, and it is made clear that individuals have the authority to do what it takes to succeed and that they are going to be held accountable to deliver their part of the plan.
3.) Authenticity and Consistency – As a leader, you must be completely open and honest in all your dealings with your people, and not be indecisive or inconsistent. It drives subordinates nuts, and generally impairs the effectiveness of an organization, to have a boss who just won’t make a decision after reviewing all the relevant facts and opinions. Even worse is a boss who is constantly switching directions or reversing directions. It badly hurts morale, and most importantly, it compromises the impact the organization can have.
This all sounds so obvious but guess what: leaders consistently violate these fundamentals.