Accelerating through strategic inflection points requires step-changes in strategy, organization, and operations, carefully synced together. Those are necessary, but not sufficient unless you reinvent yourself as what John Hillen and Mark Nevins describe as a more sophisticated leader.
Per my earlier article on “What it Takes to Lead Through a Point of Inflection,” one of two things is going to give you the opportunity or need for a strategic inflection: a change in your environment or a change in your own mission, vision, objectives or goals. Whatever creates the opportunity or need, it’s going to require step-changes in your strategy, organization, and operations. In all three at the same time.
And it’s going to require a different type of leader to make that happen. That different type of leader could be someone new or it could be a reinvented you.
In their new book, What Happens Now? Hillen and Nevins argue that doing more of the same thing requires increased capacity or complexity while doing different things requires new capabilities or sophistication. If you’re growing steadily, you can probably get away with evolving your mechanics, structure, processes, and systems with your technical and functional knowledge. But, leading through a point of inflection requires new mindsets, capabilities and behaviors leveraging political, personal, strategic and interpersonal strengths.
Fitting my insights from their book into the five BRAVE questions yields this.
Environment – Where play
Hillen and Nevins ask why leaders fail to overcome stalls of poor story/narrative, alignment, influence, explaining and leading change, authority, focus, and leadership development. Their overarching premise is that failing leaders add more complexity while more successful leaders add sophistication.
Values – What matters and why
Hillen and Nevins explain how the strongest leaders do a better job telling the story with a narrative that others can believe, follow and relate to still others in different ways. That story is anchored in vision, mission and values and flows through to strategies. They suggest it needs to be clear enough for your grandmother to be able to tell it to someone else over the kitchen table.
Attitude – How to win
Hillen and Nevins make a strong case for the importance of aligning all around the strategy and culture. You can’t pivot with a bunch of “freelancers” looking out for their own or their sub-groups’ interests. Leading through a point of inflection requires moving from being a working group to a high-performing team.
Relationships – How to connect
Hillen and Nevins devote much of their book to the relationships required to lead through points of inflection.
When it comes to stakeholders, job one is to take them into account and pay attention to the wide range of stakeholders from customers to collaborators to competitors to those in various roles around your organizational space. Understand their relative power and interest in what you do.
With both internal and external stakeholders, it’s essential for you to explain the change you’re making, why you’re doing it and how you’re doing it over and over again.
This is only going to work if you continue to deserve the authority to lead. You must continue to be credible, reliable, faithful and selfish and become ever stronger as a strategist/systems thinker.
Finally, in terms of relationships, you can’t do it on your own. You must invest in developing other leaders.
Behaviors – What impact
Hillen and Nevins are cognizant of the difference between doing, managing and leading. If the doers are hacking a trail through brush, the manager is helping them do that as effectively and efficiently as they can, and the leader is the one who climbs the tree to look out and point the way forward. To make the impact required to lead through a point of inflection, you have to put down your brush hacker and climb the tree.
Make your impact through coaching and developing, managing stakeholders, initiating important conversations, listening with empathy and perception, broadcasting a vision with clarity and purpose, shaping strategy to lead change, and providing others with feedback, support, and opportunities to grow.