Leadership Success—A critical measure of effectiveness

In the book Measure of a Leader, the authors state, “The best predictors of leadership are found in the behaviors of the leader’s followers.” Measuring a leader by the success of the people he or she leads is a powerful indicator of that person’s true leadership. A leader’s role is to purposefully develop and maintain the critical behaviors needed from others to achieve an organization’s goals. This accomplishment requires much more from a leader than merely telling people what to do. It requires designing the organization to support desired performance across the organization. 

How does a leader go about designing and influencing the systems and processes an organization needs to create and support desired performance? Here are five ways a leader can influence the organization and focus on being more effective at producing excellence in the action of others:

Developing a relentless focus on the Mission, Vision, and Values (MVV).  In many organizations, the MVV statements are hanging on a wall and play no relevance in daily business operations or decision-making. This disconnect can create discord in the workplace as employees witness actions by leaders that are in contrast to the organization’s stated values. To prevent this, leaders should be held accountable for behaving in ways that are representative of the organization’s MVV. This includes leaders participating in bi-weekly or monthly accountability sessions to talk about how they are supporting MVV, setting goals based on the MVV, sharing stories of how the MVV is showing up across the organization, and creating a team responsible for ensuring business decisions are in congruence with the MVV. 

Creating a compelling strategy. Another way senior leaders can align and motivate others is by developing a strategy for what the future looks like, including what is important. There are many different ways to do this, from typical strategic planning sessions to the use of a methodology like OKRs (Objectives, Key Results). No matter which methodology you use, there are a few common elements of good strategy plans. These include clearly pinpointing the purpose of the plan and identifying metrics for success, using a collaborative approach to determine how to achieve those results, identifying a point of contact (person or team) responsible for achieving the key initiatives of the plan, and setting concrete review dates to discuss progress. Once a strategy is developed, you must ensure there are resources available to meet the goals. Resource allocation and budgeting should be part of the review so that you can actively control and reallocate resources as necessary.

Establishing critical behaviors. Planning and goal setting is critical to performance improvement, but what happens after the plan is developed is just as important as the plan itself, if not more. Senior leaders should develop a list of critical actions expected at every level to help support the MVV or results identified in planning. At ADI, we call this Behavioral Roadmapping. This process clarifies behavioral expectations for how results are achieved and how people should work together to achieve those results, establishing accountability at all levels.

Creating an environment that supports desired behaviors. Having a list of results and behaviors is not enough for leaders to influence those they lead. Systems and processes must be in place to hold leaders accountable for using and further developing their expertise in the identified actions. Senior leaders are responsible for setting the stage so that all employees understand the phrase, “this is how things are done around here,” which includes ensuring that the systems, processes and procedures are supporting and positively reinforcing desired behaviors. This includes things like hiring, firing, promotion, recognition or bonus systems, work processes and procedures on the macro side of the organization, and ensuring there is daily coaching throughout all levels of the organization on the micro side. Having a coaching strategy in place helps others self-manage and deliver positive reinforcement when it is earned.    

Developing Say/Do correspondence. Employees are very aware if there is a connection between what leaders say and what leaders actually do. In many organizations, there is a vast difference between the two. For example, leaders may say that, “safety is first” but then do things like: cut needed staffing, delay or deny projects that require capital expenditures, and promote leaders who continue to produce while sacrificing safety. Although “say/do” sounds like an easy task, it requires daily actions and decision-making aligned with the recommendations listed above. When senior leaders purposely align what they say and do, others throughout the organization will do the same. This is called the Modeling Effect. Developing say/do correspondence will also help build trust throughout the organization because employees will see and believe the connection between leaders’ talk and their actions. 

Being a leader requires more than a title and an expectation that people will do what you say just because you are in a position of power. Leadership requires motivating people in a common direction, showing them a compelling scoreboard and clarifying how to play the game. Leadership involves creating an environment that supports the organization’s MVV and helps workers at all levels find success. Leadership calls for sharing credit for success and taking responsibility for failure. You can see all of these things in the success (or lack thereof) of a leader’s followers. The above strategies will help you improve your leadership skills and inspire the best from others.

Posted by Bryan Shelton

Bryan applies his knowledge and expertise in strategic planning to help organizations align employee performance with company goals. Bryan helps clients create improvement across a variety of business metrics including company growth, profitability, customer service, vision alignment, leadership development, and culture change. He also helps clients implement process improvement initiatives, improve sales results and using performance-pay systems to help drive company results. His behavior-based approaches and applications have supported clients’ improvement initiatives, leadership development, and the design and implementation of performance pay systems.