Leaders are faced with a myriad of issues each day, but one of their most critical responsibilities is to step back from the urgent and focus on the important. They must achieve a balance between the reactionary crisis mode and the proactive planning mode. This means pausing and reflecting on how they’re influencing behaviors to ensure the right outcomes. To accomplish that, there are 10 key important questions that, properly addressed, will strengthen both their leadership and their organizational effectiveness.
- Disruption. What is the disruptive threat to your business model? Leaders should be constantly aware of ongoing threats to their business model and its products or services, and take action to address it. Jim Kennedy, Chairman and former CEO of Cox Enterprises provided a great example when he diversified his business away from classified ads to leverage the growing role of the internet, by successfully launching Autotrader.com. So make a list of all the products and services provided by your organization, your team, and even you, based on your skillsets. Now for each one, think about two or three ways that your product, service or skillset can be provided faster, cheaper or differently. What technological advances might make your current products or services obsolete? How might consumer preferences shift away from your current model? Believe in the possibility and probability of those ideas, then focus on how you’ll anticipate the future and address that threat. Shift your business model to where the customers are going, instead of where they are now.
- Purpose. Why are you doing what you’re doing? Many organizations and teams shift into automatic mode as their activities become routinized. They assume that demand will continue for their products and services, and evolve into placing more focus on what they’re doing, or how they’re doing it, instead of WHY they’re doing it. But asking the question WHY, connects you to the purpose of your activities. It’s the motivator and driving force that inspires the team to the appropriate behaviors that will support it. Once they understand your WHY, an emotional link can form as they pinpoint their contribution to accomplishing it. The underlying WHY or purpose of an individual, team or organization typically does not change, because it’s a fundamental belief and value. According to Simon Sinek, the how and what changes as necessary to continue to support the WHY. When you know your purpose or your WHY and communicate it effectively, this clarity attracts others to you who recognize a benefit from it.
- Failure. Where have you failed, and what insights have you learned from it? If you’ve never failed, you’ve never attempted something of impact and significance, relative to your abilities. Failure can add value when we learn something from it, and build upon it. Thomas Edison failed many times in trying to develop a light bulb. The Wright brothers failed initially before leveraging their underdog status to become the first in flight. J. C. Penney was sick and bankrupt before he built his namesake store into a retailing giant. But they learned from their failures, kept trying and eventually succeeded. The only bad failure is if you fall into shame and shut down afterwards. Instead, find a stepping stone to move forward. Failure is a requirement for growth. It’s accompanied by exploration, curiosity, pursuit, action, and flexibility. And most importantly, reflecting on and learning lessons that can be constructively shared with others.
- Curiosity. What are you curious about? Curiosity is a precursor to learning. Though it’s easy to be consumed with the daily challenges of leadership roles, it’s important to take time to explore insights in related areas to stimulate thought processes, and spur new ideas. Research shows that successful CEOs are curious, and this curiosity leads to growth. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook started his Year of Books online reading club to encourage discovery about different beliefs, cultures and technologies. And Richard Kinder, Chairman and CEO of Kinder Morgan reads about 50 books a year. He learns from how other leaders have confronted challenges, particularly overwhelming ones for which they had few ready answers. His curiosity in reading is linked to his interests, and fuels his passion for learning. So dig into those areas that you’re curious about, and your learning will form the basis for future growth.
- Service. What does my team need from me in order for them to be successful? As a leader, your responsibility is to serve your employees, enabling them in turn to provide value to customers, investors, and the community. You serve your team by creating a compelling vision, and providing the processes, tools and structure to support innovation, recognition, teamwork, and success. Service requires a continual focus on others to understand their needs, motivations, and aspirations, and to provide them with opportunities for growth. This includes a measure of humility to steer the focus from your own, to the teams’ accomplishments, and to ensure that your decisions serve them and not yourself. Service also provides a greater connection to the team as you partner together in the organization’s success. Leaders who focus on service take responsibility when things go wrong. Leaders who focus on service empower their team. Leaders who focus on service attract, retain and develop talented people.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of the 10 Key Questions for Leaders, coming up next month. In the meantime, we want to hear your answers to the following five answers. Email us two of your answers by February 1, along with your name, headshot and city and we’ll try to feature as many of your answers as we can at LionessMagazine.com so you can partake in the discussion:
- What is the disruptive threat to your business model?
- Why are you doing what you’re doing?
- Where have you failed, and what insights have you learned from it?
- What are you curious about?
- What does my team need from me in order for them to be successful?
Priscilla Archangel, Ph.D. is a seasoned leadership consultant, executive coach, author, speaker, and teacher. She has a passion for developing leaders, and motivating individuals and organizations to align their values, behaviors and goals with their purpose. Visit priscillaarchangel.com.