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What's in your Leadership Model?
By Dr. Rick Johnson
Tuesday, 10th February 2009
 
There isn't much doubt that most effective high impact leaders are driven by a model -

This is true even when that effective leader doesn't take the time to define his personal unique model.  A model is an intangible tool that leaders use to predict future outcomes of current decisions; a tool that not only enhances personal creativity but encourages creativity in the minds of their employees.

An executive's model is built from the sum of their experiences, knowledge, deeds and, in fact, many of their mistakes.  Best practice alone will not get the job done. Effective model driven leadership utilizing best practice is a combination that is an absolute must. Different leaders create their models through different approaches. Each model is unique to the individual but the following three examples explain the platform that models are built on.

The Competitive Desire Approach

Some leaders strongly shape their model by working in every aspect of the business and also from learning the business from the ground up. They always carry a strong desire to compete and win. The leader's competitive instincts are generally tempered by personal humility and respect for the individual managers on their team.  Listening skills and genuine interest in what is right for the business are key tools in building a consensus. 

Belief in the employees is a guiding principle in their leadership style. This same approach is used with both suppliers and customers to find the innovative win-win solution.  Make no mistake; this approach is very different than typical negotiation approaches used by many wholesale-distributors when dealing with suppliers and customers. 

It becomes a discipline. The other implication of this model is providing significant autonomy to the executive team embracing empowerment as part of their culture.  The leader makes sure the executive team has a detailed and shared vision of the business objectives and goals.  He believes his role as chief executive is to provide the shared vision and make sure that it is clear and also current.

The Elegant, Powerful Win-Win Innovation & Creativity Approach

Another variation of the servant style of leadership is the elegant, powerful, and creativity approach.  This approach starts with an open and clear balance between the various stakeholders whether they are customer/owners, employees, or suppliers.  It is a true win-win model without the destructive negotiations experienced by many distributors.  Using this foundation and a long established set of core corporate values and best practice the leader consistently reminds each stakeholder group of the key messages while continually focusing the organization on innovation and creativity.

Innovation becomes a key strategic initiative for growth.  It is exciting to see the accumulated economic power that can be developed by a constantly evolving innovative business model and effective leadership combined with best practice utilization. Open communication is a critical element to this approach.

The Strategic Shift Approach

A third example of leadership modeling is about managing a strategic shift from being a traditional box-moving wholesaler with limited growth prospects to a logistics powerhouse that provides significant value in the supply chain. 
Strategy is said to be obvious once you've had it explained.  It is also said that customers don't see strategy, they only see execution. 

This model like the other examples platform a strong sense of curiosity about other companies and how to apply lessons learned in their own organizations.  The answers needed for major change and organizational renewal lie outside the enterprise and effective leaders using this model are able to take prior "lessons learned" and on-going bench marking to generate success.

Over ninety percent of the reasons companies fail can be traced to ineffective leadership.  It's not because of the economy and it is not because of the competition. It is a failure to learn.   Effective leaders overcome these obstacles, and look down the road at what needs to be done to grow with the current model or change it once the model is no longer ‘grow-able. Attention is paid to the lessons learned.

What is a High Impact Leader?

High impact leaders, regardless of their personal model demonstrate a curiosity that can not be satisfied without personal examination of what exactly were the causes of any failure to meet expectations. Non-performance is just not acceptable. Leadership is a key in every instance to creating an attitude, structuring an environment and developing employees as the very essence of success.

Although individual leadership models differ in some specific approaches, the common thread that links every model together is respect for the individual employee and the willingness and ability to listen with an understanding that embellishes their own leadership contribution to the organization. Best practices are a part of every successful leadership model but best practice alone will not create the level of success demonstrated by the high impact upper quartile performers.

Effective leaders create a culture where employees can express themselves and fight for what is right; employees become responsibly fanatical about aligning their resources to add value to the customer and the company. That's what high impact leadership is all about.

Effective Leaders Don't Have To Know It All

A mistake many leaders make is the self imposed responsibility to have all the answers. This is just not true. It is okay to admit to not having all the answers. Good leaders are willing to show their imperfections. Surround yourself with a solid executive team and you don't need all the answers. No one expects perfection, just leadership. Being President doesn't grant you supreme knowledge.

Servant-leadership encourages collaboration, trust, foresight, listening, and the ethical use of power and empowerment.  Warren Bennis, leadership scholar believes American corporations are over managed and under led. Great leaders get exceptional efforts from their employees simply because they recognize that they don't have to have all the answers. Knowing this they make a concerted effort to leverage the intelligence, the creativity and the innovation of their employees.

For this process to be successful, effective leaders must have a vision and they must communicate that vision with crystal clarity.  A visionary leader has a clear sense for the future with the ability to turn their vision into results. This could not be accomplished if they let their ego get in the way. Communication is critical to the process used to inspire others to act.

The Ego Factor

Stagnant growth, lost market share and panic response management are more likely to occur if strategic growth objectives are Ego driven vs. Profit driven which often leads to putting personal needs ahead of business needs. This is a common symptom of the lack of leadership in the organization.

A servant leader makes a conscious choice to lead by being a servant first. He or she is sharply different from the person who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions. 
Good managers get employees to respect them, effective leaders get employees to not only respect them but more importantly they get them to respect themselves.

Effective leaders go through a never ending development process that includes education, self study, training, experience and coaching and mentoring from one or several individuals that have a very positive influence on their personal development. Leadership is the ability to influence, inspire and motivate others to accomplish specific objectives. It includes creating a culture that helps direct the organization in such a way that it makes it cohesive and coherent keeping short term tactical goals and objectives in alignment with long term strategic initiatives. The success of leadership in this process is directly influenced by the individual leaders' beliefs, values, ethics, character, knowledge and skills.

Position and title may give you power but power in itself does not make you an effective leader. To become an effective leader there are specific skill sets that you must understand and master. This does not come naturally. It takes dedication, passion and commitment to the process. That commitment, dedication and passion includes a tireless effort to improve on specific skills and the development of a personal leadership methodology. This is often referred to as your personal leadership model.

Dr. Rick Johnson is the founder of CEO Strategist LLC. an experienced based firm specializing in leadership development, strategic planning and sales effectiveness focusing on the creation of competitive advantage in wholesale distribution. CEO Strategist – experts in Strategic Leadership in Wholesale Distribution. Sign up for Rick's monthly news letter – "The Howl" a free monthly newsletter that addresses real world industry issues. – Straight talk about today's issues. E-mail rick@ceostrategist.com

www.ceostrategist.com
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