This blog looks at what high-performance leadership is, how it is expressed, how to enable it and the impact of the changing business landscape on high-performance leaders
“If you want to build a high-performance organization, you’ve got to play chess, not checkers.”
― Mark Miller, Chess, Not Checkers: Elevate Your Leadership Game
How to become a High-performance leader?
Introduction – how is HPL expressed
Leaders come in all shapes and sizes from Lincoln, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mandela, Obama to Henry Ford, Jack Welch, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and so on. This makes understanding what great leadership is, and being able to define it exactly, more subjective than objective.
Expressing high-performance leadership consistently every day is essential for any leader serious about developing, maintaining and retaining high performing individuals, teams, business units, and business culture. Such high-performance leadership is expressed in the Leader’s beliefs, thoughts, communication and action.
- Commit the time to know your beliefs and it makes it much easier to take action with confidence, conviction, and courage and ultimately create authenticity while investing in high-performance leadership.
- Build confidence and develop conviction in the way you think such that the high-performance option is consciously and automatically chosen.
- Leaders often “react” on automatic pilot to situations – known as reflexive or reactive thinking. Instead, they should practice reflective thinking – consider the “smorgasbord of behaviours” available and also the impact of their decision on others.
- The time it takes you to act is highly indicative of what is important to you. It is strongly argued, what you say is inconsequential compared to when and how you act. How long it takes to address conflict, make time for the person trying desperately to speak with you, summon up the courage to provide tough feedback – these things indicate to others, what is important to you and the emphasis you are willing to invest in high-performance leadership.
- Every conversation a leader has indicated what is important to them and informs the culture. While developing and refining leadership mastery it is critical to spend reflective thinking time to review what has been said to people and whether it rests comfortably with the conversations that are associated with high-performance leadership.
Let’s examine a few important aspects relating to High-performance leadership –
- Four facets of leadership mastery
- The impact of the changing business landscape on leadership
- What really enables high-performance leadership?
Four facets of leadership mastery
High-performance leadership requires business people to build confidence, conviction and courage in their leadership mastery. There are four facets of leadership mastery, out of which three facets determine personal capability for high-performance leadership:
- Self-mastery brings personal success to leaders as they are encouraged to be authentic, courageous, congruent and passionate.
- Relationship mastery creates professional success as leaders recognise the importance of being trusted, engaging, and inspiring by all critical stakeholders to the business.
- Business mastery is essential for financial and moral success and so leaders learn how to become insightful, practical, resourceful and decisive business people.
- Technical mastery allows you to be intellectually stimulating, competent, and ethical and is the solid foundation of expertise built by leaders that earns them a strong professional reputation. Most leaders spend significant time developing technical mastery in their careers and yet it becomes less essential to success and sustainable performance as they transition into a “whole of business” leadership role
The importance of appreciating the value of these different facets of leadership mastery is for leaders to consciously invest time and energy to develop each of them to the level required within the business for high-performance leadership. Confidence, conviction and courage in each facet of leadership mastery have a direct impact on the creation of a high-performance culture.
The changing business landscape and its impact on leadership
High-performance leadership is transitioning with the changing business landscape – historical performance and achievements are not going to work as we experience the VUCA environment – a business environment defined by:
VOLATILITY: where leaders and businesses are increasingly experiencing unexpected and sudden challenges/changes and sometimes of unknown duration.
UNCERTAINTY: an event or issue arises and despite the availability of some information its basic cause and effect are unknown with change being possible but not necessarily given. It makes predictions about the future very challenging.
COMPLEXITY: situations and issues with many integrated, interdependent parts with difficulty in understanding how they connect and align. As technology-driven interconnections between markets, economies and populations continue to increase so do the levels of complexity.
AMBIGUITY: situations and events that have multiple meanings and with relationships that lack clarity and can have no precedents.
Therefore with this kind of changing environment here are 5 critical imperatives for the kind of change necessary if we want high-performance leadership to continue to be effective:
- Leaders must continually challenge the status quo and step out of their comfort zones – of how things have been done in the past and what they have known as they have come through the organizational ranks of leadership
- Learning, change and emotional agility are vital for leaders within this VUCA business environment
- Agile decision making where egos are subordinated – it is no longer viable to make a decision and then stand by it to make it work – you need to seek new data and check in on the decision continuously
- Budgeting is going to have to change dramatically and accountability to predictions in an environment that is changing with such speed
- Learn to slow down to speed up – take time to think reflectively before deciding how to react – and this is a huge change from our current way of leading – we need higher-order thinking to navigate our way through the speed. Agility does not mean fast!
What really enables high-performance leadership?
These are the 10 critical enablers of high-performance leadership:
- Deep personal humility where leaders subjugate their egos and have enormous ambition for the company, not themselves and their position
- Personal discipline (and self-mastery) to think reflectively in order to capture learning and insights
- Commitment to engage in real, courageous and actionable conversations where people are treated as human beings who turn up every day to give of their best
- Desire to continuously develop emotional and change agility which is going to mean showing up and BEING vulnerable
- Commitment to consistency within themselves and within the Executive Leadership Team – “as a leader if humility is beneath you, then leadership is beyond you”. The team is bigger than one person wanting to do it their way
- Being accountable and being prepared to hold others to account too
- Show up and BE human and at its very core is kindness
- Develop personal habits to live in a VUCA environment – where you cannot know all the answers, you cannot predict and use past experience as the best orientation for the way you lead
- Stop judging – find a pause button and stop to ask questions and gather insights. Judging is an inherent trait we developed to protect us in the wild and while it served to protect us from animals it does not serve us well when working with human beings where we then have the propensity to think the worst rather than the best
- Learn to “fail fast” and enable and empower forward movement rather than seeking to blame and finger point.
High-performance leadership requires confidence and competence in three key areas.
The first is managing one’s self, i.e., mastering how you show up as a leader by drawing upon your self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and executive presence.
Second is leading one-to-one; i.e., engaging powerfully and authentically in setting direction, measuring performance, providing effective feedback and coaching for growth.
The third is leading a team; i.e., maximizing a team’s impact and performance by communicating a compelling vision, providing purpose, and creating a supportive, inclusive culture.
The above requires a leader to focus on developing the following skills
- Building his or her executive presence; Delegating and Coaching for development and performance
- Receiving and giving feedback; Managing conflict
- Maximizing team effectiveness; Leading Teams, Leading through change
Seven E’s to build HP teams –
According to Gordon Tedgold, there are seven E’s that great leaders use to build high-performance teams and generate inspired results:
- Energy – It’s hard to energize others when you don’t have great energy yourself. Energy is infectious but it starts at the top.
- Edge – People with edge know which rules to follow, which rules to bend, and those which need to be broken. People with Edge know how to make tough decisions, they know when to say yes and when to say no, and they avoid the maybes. These solid decision-makers are more valuable than ever due to the turbulent times in which we do business.
- Excite – Great leaders articulate a vision, one which both excites and engages their teams in a way that then gets to turn that vision into a reality. They spark others to perform, both through their own excitement, with the boldness of eir vision, and the belief they create that success is inevitable.
- Empowering – Great leaders know that great results come from great teams, not the just the actions of the leader. They empower their people to act by defining the required outcomes and then giving their teams the freedom to achieve them in the best way they know. They don’t criticize failure; they know it is part of the journey to success, and they encourage their teams in smart risk-taking.
- Enabling – When you set your teams up for success, most will surprise you by accepting the challenge and being successful. You do that by giving them the right tools, and authority levels to enable them to do their jobs and achieve the goals successfully.
- Execute – When the going gets tough, the tough get going, and great leaders are prepared to step in and gets their hands dirty when needed. They know how to execute, and how to get their teams to execute. They can lead from the front, if needed, but are willing to let the team lead the charge and take the glory.
- Encouraging – Encouragement is a low-cost tool that has a high-value return. There is no team that doesn’t respond well to praise, recognition, and encouragement. Great Leaders take the blame when things go wrong but give others the credit when things go well.
(Sources – 1) High-Performance Leadership by Mandy Holloway 2) 7 E’s of High-Performance Leadership That You Need to Activate by Gordon Tredgold)