Creating Fresh Squeezed Motivation: Five Steps To Developing A Leadership Strategy

A Leadership Strategy must compliment every business strategy. Here is a five-step process to develop a Leadership Strategy. (Part 2 of 2)

By Brent Filson - 10/2006

Keeping the motivation of your clients’ fresh while they’re learning and applying what they learned is a challenge for corporate learning leaders.

But there is another, crucial dimension of motivation, though few learning leaders know it even exists.

This dimension entails the development and execution of a Leadership Strategy to support your organization’s business strategy.

In the last newsletter, I defined a Leadership Strategy and described its importance to your job, your career and your organization.

In this newsletter, I’ll show precisely how to create a Leadership Strategy and set it into motion in your organization to achieve a stream of fresh motivation for great business results.

In the last newsletter, I said there was a crucial difference between a business strategy and 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. I described how a Leadership Strategy can drive increases in hard measured results as no business strategy can; how a Leadership Strategy can help saturate all functions and ranks with motivated employees; how a Leadership Strategy can invigorate cross-functional activities; how a Leadership Strategy can create a more effective and efficient competitive culture; how a Leadership Strategy can elevate learning leaders to the top ranks of the company.

A Leadership Strategy is absolutely vital to getting employees motivated as a group to be the ardent cause leaders of the business strategy. The vast majority of business strategies don’t come to grips with this issue, despite it being one of the most important issues of organizational achievement.


(1) Know What “Ain’t So”.

“It’s not what you know that’s important,“ said Josh Billings of my Massachusetts Berkshires, “It’s what you know that ain’t so.”

Few organizations develop a coherent, simple business strategy. What “ain’t so” about a business strategy can entail:

-- An absence of strategy, which is a common state of affairs for many organizations.

-- A strategy known only to the top executives.

-- A strategy so complicated and/or confusing that even those who promote the strategy can’t or won’t communicate it clearly.

–- A strategy ignored or disdained by the people who must execute it. The point is that you should try to understand the business strategy – or lack thereof -- of your organization. As a learning leader, you may not be able to change the strategy or influence it to any great degree; but you should be aware of the strategic context in which you can introduce your Leadership Strategy.

The Leadership Strategy isn’t necessarily meant to supplant a business strategy. It’s to reinforce it or, if it’s a bad business strategy, to mitigate its pernicious consequences.

However, there can be circumstances when a Leadership Strategy is so clearly superior to a business strategy that it actually does replace that business strategy.

For instance, I worked with an American manufacturing leader that had a clear business strategy. The company was getting hammered by cheaper overseas manufacturing. If costs weren’t sharply reduced, the company would either be sold or liquidated. So the executives developed a radical cost-cutting business strategy to institute both short and long term.

The goals of the strategy were to achieve a major cost reduction immediately and after that a five percent cost reduction every year, irrespective of inflation.

Given the stakes, the manufacturer’s leaders believed the employees would automatically get behind the cost-cutting strategy and meet the goals.

However, those leaders were suffering from a common affliction called the Leader’s Fallacy: the notion that just because they’re leaders, the people will automatically enthusiastically support what they want. It’s a fallacy because automatic reciprocity is an illusion. In fact, in many cases, there is an inverse reciprocity: whatever the leaders tell the people to do, they will avoid doing or do half-heartedly -- simply because the leaders told them!

So, along with their business strategy, the company also had to have a Leadership Strategy, at the very least as antidote for the Leader’s Fallacy.

(2) Identify the hard stuff of GREAT RESULTS

The people’s dreams. Learning leaders who are serious about bringing a Leadership Strategy to their company must absolutely understand the importance of dreams.

What does the dream have to do with leadership and your company? Look at it this way: Leadership is motivational or it’s stumbling in the dark. The best leaders don’t order people to do a job, the best leaders motivate people to want to do the job. The dynamic of “want to” is intensely realized in the realm of dreams.

For instance, I teach leaders to have their organizations achieve “more results faster, continually.” To do so, especially to manifest “continually”, leaders must take the trouble to come to grips with the dreams of the people.

Of course, I’m not talking about the dreams that come in sleep. I’m talking about the dream as a manifestation of intensely heightened purpose. People who are living their dream can achieve great things.

Dreams are not insubstantial things. They’re the hard stuff great results are made of. For example, when Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that “governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed,” he was describing a dream. There were no democracies in Europe at the time. Yet that dream drove the American Revolution, and it’s a dream that drives revolutions around the world even today.

However, the vast majority of leaders and learning leaders don’t delve into the deepest aspects, the dream aspects, of human motivation and so are unable to grasp the true potential of human motivation.

Drill down through goals and aspirations, and you hit the bedrock of motivation, the dream. Many leaders stop drilling well before they get there; so they work with superficial raw material, goals and aspirations.

Dreams are not necessarily goals. Goals are the results toward which efforts are directed. Clearly, goals are vital to developing a Leadership Strategy. Goals frequently incorporate aspects of the dream or actually are the dream themselves. The realization of a dream might contain goals as stepping stones. But goals alone are not sufficient to achieving great results.

Furthermore, the attainment of a goal does not necessarily result in the attainment of a dream. In fact, a goal might not have anything to do with a dream. Even worse, a goal might be in conflict with a dream.

Organizations that simply have goals without the dream get a fraction of the results they are capable of.

For instance, Martin Luther King did not say, “I have a goal.” Or “I have an aim.” The power of that speech was in the “I have a dream”.

Dreams are not necessarily aspirations. Aspirations are strong desires to achieve something. King didn’t say he had an aspiration or ambition that “ day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-

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Best wishes,

Brent Filson
Brent Filson