Business Blog Coaching leadership

5 Things Great Leaders Do When they're Not The Ultimate Authority

By Jonathan Brake May 14, 2020

I get it, you’re not the final authority. You don’t have the final say on the vision, mission, or even the operation of your business. However, you’ve been given the title of "leader" so it’s time to really stand out.

Especially in this season, but really in any, you can be the leader you want to be and still deliver on the objectives of your company that may come from somewhere else. 

Whilst working with CEOs and board level, I also work with plenty of regional and local business leaders that run businesses that are headquartered somewhere else. These are divisional VPs, Regional Presidents, brand CEOs, plant and warehouse VPs… you get the picture. In fact, I really enjoy this space because this is where the real magic happens.  

What is it that sets the pack apart when it comes to good leadership and great leadership at this next level? 

There are five things, if executed well, I have discovered form a great framework for success. I call them the Five Markers For Extraordinary Potential, and they work for any business. 

 

1. Being Purposeful

Your organization has already probably defined the company’s purpose, maybe you were part of that discussion. Having a clear purpose applies not only to the overall organization but also to your localized operation. 

For example, I work with a localized tech manufacturing company that is part of a large global conglomerate. They have a local purpose to safely exceed customer expectations at a globally competitive price with the least environmental impact. Through strong leadership they build all of their business operations off of this purpose and build out their operation with strong core values and great, and evolving, operating principles.

 

2. Knowing Your People 

Good people are everything to a business. Many of my clients feel they have more control here, localized hiring, development, and firing. So long as the numbers are good anyway. 

This is also a primary area where many leaders can go wrong. 

The great leaders I have seen have built programs around their people, not the other way around. Your people have core strengths and weaknesses. These leaders know the attitude, aptitude, and skill sets they are looking after. They invest in themselves and their team, and focus on a winning team dynamic, expecting their leaders to do the same. 

 

3. Knowing The Kind Of Bus Are You Driving

“I just want to have the right people, on the right seats in the bus!” 

An all to common phrase I am sure you’ve heard a number of times. 

My challenge to these great leaders is “what kind of bus are you driving?”  To draw this analogy out; what does it look like or do? What kind of fuel does it run in? Is it in need of regular maintenance? 

Great leaders know even when there is an ultimate strategy in place over them, they have the ability to build a localized strategy and tactics to really stand out. Sure, it should appeal to the overall business objectives, but there are so many more things the great leaders do to influence their business success.

Working with a multi $bn company, my primary role was to coach Regional VPs. These leaders were responsible for $40-$150m worth of business each. The company had a strong culture and clearly defined business objectives. What was amazing to me was that in the 20+ regions, the really strong results came from the leaders who functioned as if they were the CEO of their business. They knew their objectives and built out a strong, local business based around a clear purpose, great people, and a well-defined and agreed on strategy and tactics.

They also executed well on the next two markers. 

 

4. Taming the Chaos: Effective Communication and Accountability 

I wish I had a dollar for every time I head the answer “better communication” to the answer, what is your key business issue right now? 

Let’s face it we bundle up a bunch of different people, often put them under a leader who doesn’t really know what they want, provide them with little opportunity to collaborate, and then wonder why communication is our problem. 

Great leaders know communication is key, executing on a few fundamentals to work through this. The first of course is getting your purpose, people, strategy right. Secondly, they achieve this through a collaborative effort, providing ultimate guidance (they are still leaders). 

The great leaders also execute on clear rhythms of leadership those things they need to do daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly. They know their zones of control and expect their leaders to know theirs too. They are not afraid to hold their teams accountable and expect the same back to them from their team. 

Communication is planned, thought through, and reflects the reality that much of the communication that takes place is by word of mouth. 

 

5. Simple Repeatable Processes

In The Leadership Challenge, Kouzes and Posner give five traits of a leader, the third is “Challenge the Process”. 

The great leadership I have seen is one that is not afraid to question everything and challenge their team to work towards constant improvement. They place an emphasis on feedback loops and build trust in a way that encourages their teams to speak up and drive innovation. 

No idea is a bad one, and everything is weighed and tested well.

 

What’s Next For You?

So what kind of leader are you? Do you simply defer to the powers above you and let them dictate what kind of leader you are going to be? Or do you take action on the business in your charge?

I have worked with many leaders, some get great clarity from their spline and many do not. Regardless the great leaders know they can still make a difference, and as they discover frameworks like this one to do so they also find they start to get the attention of those up the line from them and are able to influence the broader business as well. 

So what kind of leader are you? What are the challenges you facing today? Especially coming out of these interesting times, what’s it all mean for you? 

 

If you're interested in learning more or chatting with me, click the button below to send us an email saying "YES - Jonathan Brake." 

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Jonathan Brake

Five Capitals Coach and Global Business Specialist

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