Reflecting on my first 700 articles for Forbes, five ideas seem particularly helpful. I invite any of you to go back through those articles and give me any alternate views.
- Converge. Then Evolve.
- Be an other-focused leader.
- Own your own choices.
- Choose influence over direction.
- Be – Do – Say with Integrity.
Some will recognize the BRAVE leadership framework here, working through environment, values, attitudes, relationships, and behaviors.
Converge. Then Evolve.
This is the prime directive for executive onboarding. Understand the context and become part of the team before you pivot to helping it evolve from the inside. There’s always a pivot point – sooner if you need to shock the organization, later if things are going well. There’s an art to its timing. Move too fast and the culture rejects you. Move too slowly and you fail to deliver.
Many struggle because they’re doing the wrong job the wrong way. They need to think “their job, their way,” do the job their boss and the organization needs them to do most, and conform to the organization’s culture instead of trying to change it until they’ve earned that right. Converge. Then evolve to increase your influence and impact.
Be an other-focused leader.
As described in Why the World Needs More Other-Focused Leaders, leadership is about inspiring and enabling others. Happiness is good, or more precisely, three goods: doing good for others, doing things you are good at, and doing good for yourself. While individuals balance those three goods differently, those that care more about doing good for others naturally attract like-minded followers to do good together.
This plays out in job interviews. It turns out The One Single Most Important Thing to Improve Your Job Interview Results is knowing they’re not about you. No one cares about you. They care about what you can do for them. So, don’t just be an other-focused leader. Be an other-focused interviewee.
Own your own choices.
Those that own their own choices refuse to be victims. They recognize problems and make the choice to do their best to support others that can solve them or solve them themselves. There are a whole series of choices to be made, in no particular order:
- The world needs three types of leaders: artistic, scientific, interpersonal. Know which you are and choose to value the others.
- Choose to focus versus dilute your efforts and messages. Niro Sivanathan makes a strong case for this in his TED talk on how to be more persuasive. He argues, persuasively, that quality trumps quantity – increasing the number of arguments dilutes your effect. People don’t see extra weaker points as additive, they look at the average strength of all your points.
- Be clear on the core of your organization: design, produce, deliver, or service. Then choose one over-arching strategy for where to play and how to win and play that out in clear priority choices, enablers, and capabilities flowing from and supporting that, directing where you will win as predominant (top 1%,) superior (top 10%,) or strong (top 25%,) not lose as above average, or good enough/scaled, or not do/outsourced.
Choose influence over direction.
Leadership is about inspiring and enabling others to do their absolute best together to realize a meaningful and rewarding shared purpose. In the end, their motivation comes from within. Your job as a leader is to bring out their best, giving them confidence in themselves.
- Directing is telling with policies that all have to follow. At best that generates compliance.
- Guidelines invite others to contribute and flex, ratcheting up the best current thinking.
- Principles and co-creation define the only route to commitment.
Be – Do – Say with Integrity.
Everything communicates. Your actions have to match your words. But, even if they do and they don’t match your fundamental underlying beliefs, you will get caught because you will trip up. This is why the congruence of whom you are, what you do, and what you say – be-do-say – is a matter of integrity.
Believe it. Do it. Say it. And follow through with courage, conviction and respect to ensure everyone does what they say they are going to do when they say they are going to do it. Milestone management is a tool. People with complementary strengths working interdependently to realize a shared purpose as a high-performing team is the output.