After speaking with many growth focused CEOs and business leaders over the last month, executive leadership development comes up as a key concern. CEOs of growing firms find themselves leading larger and larger teams and often feel overwhelmed by the experience.
As part of my rigorous Gazelles International re-certification, I’m expected be across the thinking of the best business leadership minds globally. I’ve been reading, attending seminars, conferences, workshops and talking with business leaders. The good news is that so much of the learning converges around three key themes. Here are the three key things you need to know to become a better leader and continue to drive your business forward.
Executive Leadership Development Tips For Growth
Leadership learning #1: embody, live by and employ by core values.
Transform from the traditional “command and control” model to an enabling model based on “purpose and principle”. In management theory, “command and control” refers more generally to the maintenance of authority with somewhat more distributed decision making.
This thinking is now seen by many management theorists as obsolete. So if you studied or read about management theory in the 70s, 80s, 90s or even as recently as the 00s – your thinking may be out of date. Dee Hock, founder and former CEO of the Visa, puts it well:
“Purpose and principle, clearly understood and articulated, and commonly shared, are the ‘genetic code’ of any healthy organization. To the degree that you hold purpose and principles in common among you, you can dispense with command and control. People will know how to behave in accordance with them, and they’ll do it in thousands of unimaginable, creative ways. The organisation will become a vital, living set of beliefs.” – Dee Hock
This executive leadership development learning links very nicely with the Scaling Up teaching of understanding your purpose and living your core values.
Leadership learning #2: build your own leadership skills as well as those around you.
John Maxwell teaches us that we have to build leaders around us if we want to reach the pinnacle of leadership success. However, the key learning for me here was that “you can’t teach other leaders how to achieve a level of leadership you yourself haven’t yet mastered.”
This is well worth including in your leadership toolkit if you want your organisation to be nimble and agile. Maxwell, a student of the legendary basketball hero Coach John Wooden, embodies purpose and principles in action. Discovering Coach Wooden, for me, has opened the door to volumes of lessons (if you like inspirational quotes like I do, here is an amazing resource for any leader building their individual team members: “100 Unforgettable Quotes from Coach Wooden”). My favourite of Coach Wooden’s quotes is:
“Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who’ll argue with you.” – John Wooden
Leadership learning #3: be aware of your own behaviour and actively change diminishing tendencies.
Be aware of accidentally diminishing the people in your teams. This powerful learning from Liz Wiseman can radically change the way you are leading. I have discussed Wiseman’s thinking in a previous blog, however, by actively critiquing the way you interact with your team and being aware of any accidental diminishing tendencies, you can significantly increase the satisfaction and productivity of your teams. All business leaders should understand this chart (Multipliers – Minimising Accidental Diminisher Tendencies) and actively work to change any diminishing tendencies.
“The best leaders tell less, and they ask more. They ask more questions. They ask better questions. They ask more from the people around them, and it’s why they get more.” – Liz Wiseman