I would be surprised if the response wasn’t a 100% resounding “YES - of course leadership is important!”
So how come? Why is leadership so important?
Leadership is significant not because it’s a good thing to do, or valuable in its own right. Rather, it is important because it’s an essential component of making any endeavor exceptionally effective. By endeavor I mean a business, a cause, an enterprise, an organization, a project, a club, a venture - something that requires more than one human to accomplish - no matter how formal or informal its structure.
Leadership is the superfuel for human endeavors.
Think about it. There are three components to any endeavor.
The first is the endeavor’s core work. What the endeavor seeks to accomplish. For an airline it’s flying passengers. For a restaurant it’s preparing and serving food. If you have a plumbing business, it’s installing or fixing pipes. For an endeavor to function there has to be some competency in the basic core work.
A second component of any endeavor is handling its business aspects. How does money flow in and out, bills get paid, supplies ordered, employees hired, vendors selected, customers acquired, etc. Here I’m using ‘business’ in the larger sense of all the logistics needed to operate, whether or not the endeavor is a commercial enterprise.
Leadership is a third component that is distinct from an endeavor’s core work or it business processes. And it’s leadership that adds the mojo, that can exponentially increase the effectiveness of the effort that people make to advance the endeavor.
There are three errors I regularly see people make when trying to move their endeavor forward:
- focusing only on improving technical capacity or quality of the core work as a path to success. Sorry. Learning to be the best plumber in the country makes you the best plumber in the country. It does not guarantee success in operating a plumbing business.
- looking for a “magic bullet” business process that will propel the endeavor. An upgrade of a business system can certainly be transformational - particularly if the organization has lacked a process or suffered under a dysfunctional system. But systems are conducted by people - and that calls for leadership.
- focusing solely on leadership is just as much an error as ignoring leadership. Sure, great leadership can take mediocre talent supported by poor systems and advance an endeavor anyway. But it’s not what to shoot for. Some of the biggest wastes of effort I have ever seen are high-cost coaching and training projects attempting to foster leadership qualities in the abstract, without linking leadership directly to the outcomes and processes of the organization.
Leadership has little value as an independent quality. Leadership acquires its significance when meaningfully applied to an endeavor, by amplifying the capacity to accomplish the core work and the business processes that support the core work.
Wise leaders invest meaningfully in improving all three components - core work, business processes, and leadership. They engage tools - like strategy maps and scorecards - to communicate clearly about the core work and to craft structures to conduct business processes. When applied artfully, leadership can unleash talent and passion, cultivate a culture that energizes the endeavor, and make it exceptional.
If your endeavor is important, developing its leadership is one of the best strategies for driving it forward.
Leadership Idea Leadership is the mojo that propels endeavors and makes them exceptional.
by Tom Stevens © 2007, 2013
Tom Stevens helps leaders create and sustain exceptional organizations. To contact him, visit www.ThinkLeadershipIdeas.com
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