This column is part of Globe Careers’ new Leadership Lab series, where executives and leadership experts share their views and advice about the leadership and management issues of today. There will be a new column every weekday. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab
The challenges facing organizations these days are horrendous. Uncertainty, unpredictability, and randomness all underscore the storm forces that threaten to destroy them.
To thrive and survive the maelstrom requires more than greatness from the individuals entrusted to lead in this type of world.
“Great” doesn’t cut it.
We need leaders that are stand-outs; people who cannot be compared to others because their distinctiveness defies any standard.
Here are 10 practical and proven attributes of the stand-out leader that I have discovered:
The stand-out leader:
1. Creates discontinuity in the organization to create opportunities for competitive advantage and growth. They are not content with managing the momentum of the business. They cause interventions that force people to challenge the status quo and think differently. They don’t wait for a reason to change; they “force” change and make it integral to the organization’s DNA.
2. Does not tolerate sameness. They ask “how can we be different?” rather than “how can we copy the best in class?” And they accordingly change the conversation throughout the organization. Products, customer processes, strategic alliances, new technology are all created to move out of the competitive herd.
They seek ultimate uniqueness for the organization by creating their “only” statement: “We are the only ones that...”
3. Loves uncertainty and communicates it to all employees. They recognize that certainty is reserved for the naive and that it is an exceedingly risky proposition. Believing that things will settle down raises unrealistic expectations and places everyone at risk.
4. Preaches imperfection and encourages it. They understand that perfection doesn’t exist in business and while people covet it, they are standing still. Energies are directed to doing a lot of imperfect stuff as the way to establish and maintain market leadership.
5. Learns voraciously and continuously. They totally get that what got them here won’t get them to where they need to go. Their value to the organization is based on the new stuff they learn and apply.
6. Micro-manages the customer moment. They are customer “addicts” and understand that paying attention to the smallest detail is essential to delivering a memorable customer experience. They are actively engaged with designing what customer interactions look like and walk around the workplace coaching and mentoring to ensure that moments are delivered to ‘wow’ customers.
7. Serves people not commands them to action. They ask “how can I help you?” rather than chirp “do this.” Stand-out leaders bash internal barriers to progress and make it easier for people to get their jobs done. They subordinate themselves to the frontline and don’t delegate the job of improving performance where customer meets company.
8. Tells amazing stories. They are the consummate story-teller, breathing life into the organization’s strategy by providing examples of successful execution. Their stories are rich with visual language intended to not only excite people on the strategic journey they are on, but also to teach the behaviours expected of each person.
9. Makes it clear what each person has to do to play an integral role in executing the organization’s strategy. They constantly and passionately communicate the organization’s vision and strategy to capture the hearts as well as the minds of people. They use face-to-face venues to give everyone an opportunity to ask questions and clarify where the company is headed.
10. Is obsessed with execution. They understand that execution equals strategy and that flawlessly executing a “just about right” plan beats a “perfect” plan that can’t be implemented. A leader focused on execution tries their best to anticipate future trends and the changes likely to effect their organization, but they excel at responding to the random and the unexpected. They are a master of “Plan B.” They constantly follow up and monitor the execution of the company’s strategy and take corrective action to get it back on track.
The stand-out leader is not “great;” they are unforgettable, distinctive, outlandish, memorable, mind-blowing and contrarian.
And stand-outs are rare: Steve jobs, Tony Hsieh, Walt Disney, Jerry Garcia and Richard Branson are a few that I would tag.
Do yourself a huge favour. Acknowledge what you need to be great, but set your sights higher to be a stand-out leader. Organizations need you to ‘take their breath away.’ Start now. Ponder no longer.
Roy Osing (@RoyOsing) is a former executive vice-president of Telus with over 33 years of leadership experience. He is a blogger, educator, coach, adviser and the author of the book series Be Different or Be Dead, dedicated to helping organizations and individuals stand out from the competitive herd.