The Art of Leadership

Last week I was in Chicago and visited the world’s largest and most respected maker of fine stringed instruments, William Harris Lee & Company. They make violins, cellos, and other instruments for professional musicians worldwide. Bill Lee started out making violins himself in 1978 and has grown the business becoming a highly-successful entrepreneur.

As I visited their various workrooms I couldn’t help but think of the art involved in creation of these fine instruments as well as the art of using the instruments to create the highest levels of fine music. I thought too of Peter Drucker’s notion of an orchestra conductor as a metaphor for a leader.

Like conductors, leaders need to know where they want to take their organizations. They know the strategy (the score) and the tempo and the dynamics of what to emphasize. They rely on each performer to know their jobs better than anyone else, including the leader.

The ‘art’ of leadership is bringing together highly-talented individuals, conducting the overall strategy, and having the skill to help them excel individually and to achieve collectively more than they thought possible. It requires a set of leadership skills as well as a body of specialized, technical, and managerial knowledge.

How to Align Priorities

As a leader, you need to make sure that priorities are aligned throughout your organization, and that people are working on those priorities. To accomplish alignment, do the following:

  1. Provide context continuously. This means the big picture – what is our business strategy? What is the role of different parts of the organization in achieving that strategy?
  2. Check priorities regularly. Tell your associates what your priorities are. Say, “This is what I am focusing on.” Then ask each of them, “What are you focusing on?”

Without the context and priorities, people will do what they think are the priorities and they may be very different from what you need from them.

For example, a manager might do what will reflect well on her career. Or a manager might want to create overly complex or sophisticated processes, instead of what will help achieve overall business goals. People have conflicting demands; make sure they are working on the right ones.

I worked with a large organization on strategy and structure of a rapidly-growing division which was structured around serving a specific market, and the intent was to strengthen the focus. But in conversations with the CEO and COO it became clear that the overall business strategy called for a new purpose and structure that would add tremendous value to both the overall organization and to specific market. The context provided vital direction.

If you really want to sharpen focus, send a short email to each associate noting what you discussed, agreed to with time frame.

Copyright 2018 Bob Legge
___________________________
I am a trusted advisor on strategy implementation and executive effectiveness to leaders of Fortune 500 companies, mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. My work helps leaders drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.

If you want to seize new opportunities, dramatically improve your leadership effectiveness, and free-up more time for yourself and your family, contact me.
My website is www.boblegge.com
Contact me at: bob (at) boblegge.com

The Transition Every Executive Must Make

Last week I was in Rhode Island where Autumn is beginning to take hold. It got me thinking about transitions and especially the transition that any new executive must make to shift from an operational perspective to a broader business-wide perspective.

When you become a senior leader, you have to change the way you think about both your role and the business. Senior leaders who don’t do this will be ineffective at best, and fail at worse.

Operational management is focused on getting sales, improving processes, and internal performance on a number of measures. But senior executives must be concerned with the business. And the position challenges are very different as a senior leader. You have to be concerned with how to grow the business, how to increase competitive advantage, how to provide a return that is better than the cost of capital, how to sustain profitability, and so on.

Those challenges require a different, more strategic perspective on the business, and new skills, not the least of which is how best to use your time.

As a senior leader, you need competent people to handle operations so that you have time to focus on overall business challenges.

The success of the business depends on you making this transition. But it’s not easy because the temptation is to get involved with operational issues and decisions – where you likely feel comfortable and have been successful in the past.

And importantly, you are in a position where you can feel very much isolated and alone facing key decisions for which you are fully accountable.

I have had significant success working with senior executives on this transition and the many other singular issues facing senior executives. If you, or another executive in your organization, want to make faster, surer progress, contact me. I’d welcome the opportunity to talk and explore how we could work together.

Copyright 2018 Bob Legge
___________________________
I am a trusted advisor on strategy implementation and executive effectiveness to leaders of Fortune 500 companies, mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. My work helps leaders drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.

If you want to seize new opportunities, dramatically improve your leadership effectiveness, and free-up more time for yourself and your family, give me a call.
My website is http://www.boblegge.com
Contact me at: bob@boblegge.com