Everyone is looking for the secret sauce to success. I have personally spent the past thirty years traveling around the world searching for the recipe. Though I can’t say that I’ve found the leadership equivalent of the Holy Grail, I have noticed that the most successful leaders among us have a very distinct way of viewing their businesses and creating a sustainable competitive advantage:
It has to do with the way they believe value is created in an enterprise.
Whether you run a large division in a global corporation, a department in a federal agency, an entrepreneurial start-up, or a Girl Scout troop, you are confronted with four agendas: the finance, marketplace, operations and human agendas. As a seasoned professional, you know that you must master all four of these agendas.
These agendas may change in priority over time, but all four are absolutely critical for the success of your organization. Great leaders learn to balance and excel at each of them separately and, at times, all of them at once.
So here’s the secret: Grounded leaders always start with the human agenda — the values, the leadership, and the culture of their businesses. The finance agenda is the scorecard for their success.
So what do they see and know that is different from the rest? They intuitively understand that:
- How associates feel about their company influences how they treat their customers
- Corporate reputations (brand, customer satisfaction, community relations) come from the internal reputations of the leaders
- The most desired customers demand that their suppliers be employers of choice
- Human capital is their biggest expense and their most appreciable asset
- Innovation and new product development requires deep creativity, human ingenuity, and collaboration
- Process management (Six Sigma, quality, lean manufacturing) depends on people working together
- Intangible and intellectual assets (proprietary processes, knowledge, goodwill) are created by curious and engaged people
- Great execution depends more and more on the human side of leadership
- Increasing numbers of people want to work with healthy team members and companies that unleash the human spirit
- The success of alliances and acquisitions depends on the creation and maintenance of healthy relationships
- Globally literate people are essential for teams, ventures and networks that cross borders and cultures.
These are the leading indicators of business today. The grounded leaders in our midst understand this from the inside out. So try putting a mirror up to yourself and asking whether your personal leadership model includes these truisms. I know they challenge and inspire me every day.