I don’t know when or why I started reading my horoscope each week in the Sunday paper, but I still find it interesting and thought provoking. This week mine said:
“Anyone can lead when the conditions are right. It’s the one who can rally the troops through rotten weather and imminent danger that is the true commander.”
My mind went lots of places, as I thought about the leadership issues we face in good times and in turbulent times. Leaders that were able to become true commanders weren’t smarter than others, but they were more engaged in the business, more connected to the people and they were supported by the overall company leadership.
They focused on the essential work of developing a courageous team, instilling trust, providing transparent and frequent communication, setting key milestones, and celebrating progress.
This overall support by company leadership from start to finish, including during the “middle” when it is the most often the toughest, was the glue that made navigation possible. On one hand there is the “glitzy wrapped” change we witnessed at JCPenney and on the other, are leaders that never get the chance to finish their work.
I wonder how many leaders never get the chance because their company takes the easy way out and makes a leadership change, to take the pressure off themselves vs. staying focused and engaging themselves in driving the change.
The average CEO is in place less than 3 years, hardly time to drive meaningful and sustainable BIG change. In fact, a recent research study found that frequent leadership turnover was detrimental to company performance long term. Another study indicated that when the current people are replaced, 18 months into their new roles, the replacements are often repeating the same work as the previous team. And yet there is even more evidence that when you are looking to make foundation-based infrastructure change it may take 5-7 years to see BIG, sustainable progress.
We love to seek the quick fix and show little appetite to do the “not very sexy work” required to build a strong foundation to support the new future. You can see evidence in business, government and in our communities.
Change is messy and BIG changes take time especially when you likely have to dismantle the status quo, gain agreement, repair and build trust and instill new behavior.
In these early stages of change, success is less visible. To see the future – they require a different perspective, different metrics and the commitment to do it right by leadership up to and including the Board of Directors.
It is time to set a new leadership mojo.
All of us must commit to get more deeply engaged in the world around us and focus on the real issues. This is how we drive change. It requires a keen focus on “being students of the business,” embracing our people to understand the work that has been done, and leading.
The metrics we set cannot merely focus on the stock price/comp sales world…they must focus on values that motivate our people to be in the business in the first place. Then it requires us to lead with courage. It is not important that we all agree, but it is important that we band together to drive new behavior.
Great things can emerge in challenging times.
Are you in? Let me hear from you…what have been your experiences in leading BIG change. How will you commit to elevate your personal leadership to engage more deeply to drive a new behavior vs. fall back to today’s common practices of cutting costs without regard to what fractures the culture.