In this third of our summertime management posts, we take a second look at leadership and how it defines the organizations we all struggle to manage.
I've been thinking a lot about leadership within and across the dozens of companies I've worked with over the past several years. A single disruptive idea keeps coming back to me:
Leadership isn't a set of actions by the leader. It's a state of being for the organization.
In this age of strong-man leaders and celebrity CEOs, we tend to individualize leadership and celebrate the speeches and the big "leadership moves" of the individual leader. But from all I can tell, those victories are pyrrhic and their effects ephemeral. The truly great leaders know that leadership isn't about what you do or fix; it's about what you tend and sustain. It's not the next hill to be taken, but the ecosystem to be developed and supported.
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In my opinion, great organizational leaders (whether they are leading an entire company or a sales organization) should be focused on the questions behind three overlapping and interdependent ecosystems: Talent, Incubation and Culture.
How might we attract, filter and secure the talent we need and deserve?
How might we better incubate and assimilate that talent into our organization during the critical first two years after hiring?
How might we foster and maintain an attractive, supportive culture based on employee engagement?
Great leaders keep asking their managers these questions and weigh each big decision or program against the scrutiny these questions create. And they force their managers and teams to examine the overlap and co-dependence of these concerns. Without an attractive culture, how can a company attract great talent? Without a focus on incubating new talent, what is the point of securing those hires in the first place? Unless we engage our employees, new and experienced, in caring for and teaching each other, how would we ever hope to create an attractive culture?
Great leadership isn't about you. It's about your organizational focus and values. But you need to start that conversation.