How important is leadership in relation to success? Some modern academics argue that success can happen without top level leadership. For me one 0f the key ingredients to organisational success is top level leadership. We have all seen successful organisations driven by the philosophy and drive of one key individual fail as that individual is replaced by someone else. We have all seen organisations that seem to carry on in perpetuity as leaders come and go. So what makes the difference? Richard Branson, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Bill Gates and last but not least Steve Jobs all run or have all run globally important successful organisations in recent times. However Barclays, McDonalds, Disney and BP are also all successful global companies that have broken the shackles of an individual’s leadership style and competence and still preserved their status. TESCOs after Sir Terry Leahy and now under Phillip Clarke are still in leadership transition that will bring many challenges particularly with consolidation after such rapid Global growth. The way that Phillip Clarke takes the organisation forward will be fascinating as we enter challenging financial times throughout the world apart from Brazil of course.
Organisations are all different and all have leaders who serve them in differing ways but success and leadership are linked and here are a few leadership aspects that ensure the maintenance of success within an organisation.
Key to any successful organisation is understanding of its current position. How many organisations truly know where there current position vis a vis competition, product life span and commercial risk. Without a leader focused on understanding the bigger picture in terms of risk, succession and positioning an organisation can only have a short lifespan.
All businesses have an ethos/culture and it is important that if relevant that culture is preserved after all it is what got you there in the first place. Organisations that have a successful and relevant culture need to preserve it through induction procedures for new employees, succession plans to ensure those who have grown up within the organisation who understand its doctrine are its future leaders as they preserve the continuous inspiration afforded by that ethos/culture.
Every organisation needs a vision and the vision must be owned by all within the organisation. Vision is not the sole province of senior executives they are the custodians but for vision to be effective it must be owned by the people within. If it is it will generate self sustaining pulling power to drive the organisation to the achievement of its vision.
Within the vision are objectives which whist being aligned to the overall vision they must also be challenging and rewarding to those who are responsible to achieve them. They must be timely and measurable and they must be clearly understood.
Goals within objectives are simply tasks to fulfil and as tasks they also need to be inspiring and achievable. They also need clear boundaries and controls to keep them on track and the desired end state of the task must be easily recognised.
Now risk and leadership are particularly closely linked particularly in the more frugal times. A leader needs to know what are the true risks the organisation is taking; what are the warning signs and what are the implications should the worst case come to fruition. There are plenty of recent examples of when this did not happen Zavi, Woolworths, RBS and then lets look at the US banking collapse in 2010 with 20 banks closing in two months with well over 100 closing in the year. Risk has moved up the leadership agenda and needs to be considered and understood at the highest levels.
Leadership is about the art of the possible it is not the science that management is as it is far more futuristic in its doctrine. It is about the use of experiential learning to influence and motivate people for the future and the challenges that brings. Management is a science and therefore based in the present and based on sound evidence. Lets take targets as an example managers set targets to motivate and control performance. Leaders understand where the organisation is and ensure continuous improvement through effective inspiration, motivation and judgement. Both are required in an organisation but for me the manager is the policeman for the leader, the person who keeps people on the successful track set by the leader.