Using The Strategic Dimensions Of Motivation
A Leadership Strategy must support every business strategy.
By Brent Filson - 9/2006
Corporate learning leaders can become absolutely indispensable to the success of their companies by thinking, speaking, and acting strategically. I’m not talking about getting involved in business strategy. I’m talking about developing and executing something most businesses don’t have a clue about and that is often more important than a business strategy: a Leadership Strategy.
A Leadership Strategy can drive increases in hard measured results as no business strategy can; it can saturate all functions and ranks with motivated employees; it can enliven cross-functional activities; and it can create a more effective and efficient competitive culture. Leadership Development leaders have the opportunity to be its principle driving force -- and introduce a new dimension of performance in your jobs and careers.
Leadership Strategy -- have you heard of it? I bet you haven’t. For one thing, it isn’t taught at business schools. And for another, even in the unlikely case that you have heard of it and know what it is, you probably don’t know how to make it happen.
In this article, I’ll show you what a Leadership Strategy is; and in the next article, I’ll show you a 5 step process for developing and implementing a Leadership Strategy.
Whereas a business strategy seeks to marshal an organization’s functions around central, organizing concepts, a Leadership Strategy, on the other hand, seeks to obtain, organize, and direct the heartfelt commitment of the people who must carry out the business strategy.
The business strategy is the sail, the Leadership Strategy the ballast. Without a Leadership Strategy, most business strategies capsize.
To understand what a Leadership Strategy is, let’s look at your past leadership development activities.
Divide a single sheet of paper into two columns labeled A & B. At the top of column A write “business (or organizational) strategies”. On top of column B write, “Leadership Strategies” -- in other words, what strategies were used to obtain people’s heartfelt commitments to carry out the business strategies?
Think of the strategies your organization has developed during the past few years. They might be product strategies, service strategies, growth strategies, sales strategies, marketing strategies. You do not have to explain it in detail, just give each strategy a tag and write down the tag.
Did the listings in column A match the listings in column B? Were there any listings at all in column B? That gap between what was in column A and what was in column B is a killer gap. It means that the business strategies haven’t been augmented by Leadership Strategies. And when that happens, results suffer.
I don’t care if you have leadership programs for three people, three hundred or three thousand and more. I don’t care if your programs are for sales people, first line supervisors, middle managers or executives: You’re going to need a Leadership Strategy.
Here’s what a Leadership Strategy can do for you:
1. A Leadership Strategy boosts hard measured results as no business strategy can. I submit that all organizational problems -- ALL -- are ultimately leadership problems and consequently have leadership solutions.
In fact, unless you are solving the leadership aspect of the problem, you are not getting to the root of that problem. This is not generally recognized in companies. As a result, leadership development is usually not incorporated into a business strategy, leaving leadership development programs relegated to “training” areas -- instead of existing on par in importance and prestige with functions such as sales/marketing, financial, and operations. See this article.
Leadership is far too important to companies’ functional results than to be viewed in training terms exclusively and to be left out of the company’s strategic vision and tactical activities.
Here’s one example: revenue and revenue growth. (I can make the case for many other critical results-drivers in companies, productivity, cycle time, logistical flow dynamics, order-to-remittance systems, etc.) Most leaders don’t understand that revenue is driven fundamentally by leadership. Sure, companies produce products/services which they see as revenue generators. And up to a point, products/services do generate revenue, of course. But the true basis of revenue is always leadership. Without good leadership, companies don’t have optimum people relationships and the processes to develop, support, and bring products/services into a competitive marketplace.
Having a Leadership Strategy is more important than having a product/service strategy; yet most companies focus on the latter and are totally ignorant of the former.
By introducing a Leadership Strategy into your organization, you can position yourself and your team as a key driver of business results.
2. A Leadership Strategy saturates all functions and ranks of your organization with motivated employees. Dance choreographer, Martha Graham said, “Great dancers are not just great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion.” Great organizations have passionate employees.
Working with leaders in top companies world wide for more than two decades, I’ve seen executives confused as to how to have small-unit leaders and middle managers be passionate about fully supporting the business strategy.
Small-unit leaders and middle managers can be great at “the ol’, corporate head-fake”: They nod YES on the outside but say NO on the inside; and when you have large segments of the employees giving the fake, that organization is in trouble.
The Leadership Strategy helps remove that impediment. The Strategy provides a comprehensive, interlocking, results-oriented way of getting those critical leaders ardently committed to achieving the business strategy. They become the business strategy’s cause leaders.
Furthermore, the Strategy achieves a “cascading” of those cause leaders, i.e., cause leaders enlisting more cause leaders and those cause leaders enlisting even more.
Finally, it transforms this cascading systematically into a relatively harmonious unit of motivated people reaching into all corners of the organization.
As a learning leader, you have an opportunity to be the prime mover in achieving those objectives and thus elevate your job and career to much higher levels of importance and effectiveness.
3. A Leadership Strategy invigorates cross-functional activities. You know how important cross-functional teams have become to organizational success. They help companies do more with less, develop richer products and services, and engender power and speed in all functions. In fact, in today’s highly competitive, global economy, the continual development of cross-functional teams is an absolute necessity.
The Leadership Strategy can add precision and power to cross-functional activities, as much or more so than any business strategy can.
That’s because the Leadership Strategy is essentially driven by two factors, motivation and leadership, factors which work universally across all organizational functions.
This harkens back to another lesson I’ve learned that goes right to the heart of your challenges: Not only are all problems in businesses fundamentally leadership problems; but all people have pretty much the same leadership issues. In other words, leadership is an exceptional cross-functional driver.
Mind you, I’m talking about right leadership. Don’t accept wrong leadership – leadership that is order-directed, tyrannical, and self-centered.
Right leadership is motivational. And it’s the motivational aspect of leadership that is the epoxy that holds people and activities together across all functions.
And you are one of the few leaders in the organization who can manifestly direct such leadership.
4. A Leadership Strategy integrates the thought processes and activities of all levels and ranks of leaders. Most business strategies are too good for banning but too bad for blessing. Those strategies are created in a bunker of the mind and heart of executives, far removed from the life and the needs of the people who must execute that strategy. The executives who put the strategy together may create a thing that on its surface is beautiful to behold. But unless it motivates the people to give their all in carrying out the strategy and through their motivation creates a more competitive organizational culture, what use is it?
The Leadership Strategy is the link between the bunker and the battleground.
Bringing a single Leadership Strategy to your organization and helping lead it will boost your job and career in ways that years of keeping your nose to the grindstone of working traditional learning leader processes can never do.
5. A Leadership Strategy can create and sustain a high performance culture. For learning leaders, getting a handle on culture is often like catching smoke. However, you can begin getting clarity when you identify the specific cultural drivers that contribute to improved organizational effectiveness and those cultural drivers that inhibit organizational effectiveness.
Cultural drivers are manifested by how people deal with: –- change and risk -- global vs. local activities -- employee empowerment -- openness (organizational transparency) -- diversity –- decision making structures and processes -- customer relations
The Leadership Strategy is a cultural machine. It can generate high performance in every one of those drivers by providing a structured, bottom-up, process-driven way to get people involved and motivated.
A business strategy can’t create a culture. A business strategy reinforces, supports, enhances or diminishes the present culture. Only a Leadership Strategy can create a culture -- a high performance culture that’s continuously improving.
With the Leadership Talk, you as a learning leader don’t have to simply talk about culture, you can have your company do something about it.
6. A Leadership Strategy can help elevate learning leaders to the top leadership echelons of the company. The Leadership Strategy should always be part of your learning leader’s bailiwick.
In fact, because of the Strategy’s cross-functional requirements, its motivational imperatives, its leadership skills prerequisites, its functional-results focus, learning leaders are the ONLY leaders in most companies who can develop and sustain it.
Consequently, learning leaders involved in the Leadership Strategy should by all rights come to have “C” level (CEO, CFO, CLO, COO) responsibilities, prestige, privileges and --yes, ultimately -- pay.
Mind you, I’m talking about a new dimension of performance in your job and career. Nothing is worth doing well unless there is no end to doing it better. The more and better Leadership Strategies you develop, the better your career will turn out.
Of course, bettering your career through Leadership Strategies is not going to happen over night. The idea is now is simply to get started, start developing a Leadership Strategy for your team, or your division or your company.
In the Part 2 of this article, I’ll give you a simple, five-step process for developing a Leadership Strategy and show you how I helped apply it at a global company. It’s a process you can start using in your present job immediately and continue to use for the rest of your career.
2008 © The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
Message from Brent Filson: The lowest forms of leadership involve rewards and punishments. The Leadership Strategy can be organization’s antidote to those afflictions. I’ve had more than two decades of experience helping leaders work on Leadership Strategies. Please call, and let’s talk about your challenges.
I can help your individual leaders boost their job and career performance. For instance, check out our one-day Leadership Talk sessions that comes with a $50,000 guarantee.
Here’s a one-day session for leaders.
Here’s a one-day session for sales/marketing leaders. http://www.brentfilson.com/pdfs/OnedayForSales-Marketing.pdf
Leadership is too important for the advancement of your client’s job performances and careers and also for the success of your company to have leadership development simply fulfill training objectives. For the past 22+ years, I’ve been helping leaders of all ranks and functions worldwide get great business results.
"Brent Filson knows how to help others get results! His programs are proven in a variety of settings including industry, government, non-profit and the military proving that the way he practices and coaches leadership can work for any organization willing to invest the time and energy necessary to influence their people to produce at their highest productivity levels.”
—Joe Javorski, Director, Worldwide Staffing, Analog Devices
Total Systems Solutions:
I can also help you help your leaders develop and execute unique, customized, total-solution systems for every function of your business. http://www.actionleadership.com/Leadership_Training.cfm
“One of the key components of Brent’s methodologies is their tremendous value in driving monumental change through the leadership of others in the matrix supporting your cause. The actions of developing cause leaders has allowed ordinary teams in my organization to achieve extraordinary results.”
—Robert Cancalosi, Global General Manager, General Electric Medical
Lots Of Help On My Web Site:
On my web site, http://www.actionleadership.com you’ll find many of my books, articles, interviews, course descriptions, and instruction methodologies that will help you in many ways boost your job performance and advance your career by helping your clients get the right results in the right ways.