Greg was organized, likable, and communicated well. He was promoted to division manage after three years as a mid-level manager in finance. When I interviewed his managers, they indicated that they always knew what to do because Greg excelled at clarifying objectives and expectations. Team meetings ran like a Swiss watch. His managers told me that Greg included them in decision-making and that he delegated well. He also fostered an environment of creativity and openness to change.
As the economy worsened and the CEO demanded more productivity, Greg's weakness began to show. Three of his managers failed to deliver results. As their productivity slipped, complaints about poor leadership from their own front-line supervisors escalated. Craig finally counseled his three direct reports individually, but they didn’t improve because he did not hold them accountable for implementing an improvement plan, nor did he discipline them when their poor results continued. Conflicts soon erupted with employees in other divisions as Greg’s poor performers became unresponsive to demands from other teams. Yet he still failed to institute a progressive discipline program.
Six months later, Greg was fired. What do you think his major problem was? If you guessed that he lacked the essentials of commanding leader (see below), you get a gold star. In this blog, we will address the first - executing with passion and courage.
The Four Competencies of a Commanding Leader
II. Embrace Ambiguity and Paradox
III. Regulate the Emotions
IV. Choose Responsibly
What is to give light must endure burning.
I. Execute with Passion and Courage
The heat is greatest at the tip of a rocket. When a leader chooses to be out in front, he or she will take heat. Consider the sales manager who refuses to sell out-dated products about to lose technical support, the whistle-blowing accountant who writes the memo about the "irregularities" she sees on the books, the executive who confronts her boss with difficult questions, the researcher who publishes a paper contradicting a peer's widely-praised findings, or the manager who holds his team members accountable for their performance (unlike Greg). These acts of everyday courage illustrate the first crucial competency of a commanding leader - executing with passion and courage. How strong are you in this area? How do you you grow this skill?
Professor Kathleen Reardon, from the University of Southern California, interviewed more than 200 leaders who acted courageously. (1) She discovered that the heart of courage in organizations is risk calculation. This is different from the courage we see when a firefighter rushes into a burning building or a neighbor jumps into a raging river to save a drowning child. Professor Reardon's studies show that individuals who become eXtraordinary business leaders make bold moves that have been thought through carefully. These commanding leaders take calculated risks by implementing the six-step decision-making methodology described below:
1. Clarify goals.
2. Evaluate goal importance.
3. Build support.
4. Weigh the risks and benefits.
5. Select the right time.
6. Develop contingency plans.
These are the six steps to strengthening your first competency of the commanding leadership style - executing with passion and courage. Which steps do you need to work on?
Keep stretching... boldly,
1. Kathleen Reardon; Courage as a Skill, Harvard Business Review, January 2007, 58 -- 64.