Leaders fire up vision and imagination
The effective leader of leaders looks to see whether his or her co-leaders have a big enough vision for their areas of responsibility. Great leaders know that the size of the vision determines the magnitude of the outcome — and the smaller the vision, the smaller the outcomes.
By spending time with his top executives, Bill came to understand that the previous leader had punished them for failure. What’s more, Gallup’s study of this organization revealed that the previous chief executive had coerced senior managers into spending too much time micro-managing; he had expected them to be involved with every decision, no matter how small, within their areas. One top manager stated that he was chastised for not knowing what time a staff member took lunch. At the time of the incident, he had five directors reporting to him; they in turn had 25 managers reporting to them. The staff member in question reported directly to one of the managers.
Bill realized he needed to re-ignite his senior managers’ willingness to act boldly before they could claim a big enough vision for their leadership area. He did this by removing the element of risk.
I told them that going forward, the only failure they needed to worry about was the failure to do something. ‘Do something; do anything, but do it big,’ I told them. ‘The risk is on me,’ Bill recalls.
Given this freedom to dream big, these newly emancipated executives identified more aggressive performance targets for their teams than Bill would have set for them. “I always wanted to set ‘out-of- the-park’ goals and felt that I could achieve them,” says Peter, one of Bill’s senior managers. “But I learned quickly that there was little reward for risk-taking and a lot of punishment for failure.”
Leaders surrender control
The effective leader of leaders steps back and allows co-leaders to “own” their decisions for their organizations or departments. The hardest thing for many leaders to do is to let go of control. The most effective leaders, however, prefer to invest their time preparing their senior managers to take control.
Bill gave himself 90 days to shift responsibility and control to his direct reports. During that time, he worked to learn their talents, skills, knowledge, and experience, because, he says, “I need to know in whose hands I am willing to place my trust, my job, and my future.”
The effective leaders of leaders develop a team they can trust unequivocally. They don’t do this to be magnanimous; they do it out of necessity. Great leaders know that their success depends on the ability to identify co-leaders who are more talented, knowledgeable, and experienced than they are in their specific areas of responsibility.
As Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus noted in Leaders,
The problem with many organizations, and especially the ones that are failing, is that they tend to be over managed and underled.
Absolutely! This is especially true when so many chief executives fail to create an environment that encourages co-leaders to spend their time expanding and deepening their vision for the future of the organization. Great leaders understand that by positioning the leaders they lead for success, they help guarantee the success of the organization.