Male exec with road signThe formula of life: we are born, we mature, we are educated, we work, we retire and we die. There are only two constants in this equation: we are born and we die. The richness and tapestry of life between these milestones is a factor of many things, but the main factors are our environment and what we choose to do with our talents and gifts. What we do between the milestones can largely be controlled by ourselves. Just as life has constants, leadership’s two constants are, either you lead, or you follow. There is nothing in between. All of us at one time or another are followers. Some are chosen to lead and some desire to lead.

The Need for Leadership

As the new millennium begins, the world continues to undergo change. Throughout history change has occurred; however, the present rapidness of change is staggering by comparison to just a decade ago. In just the last several years, we have seen rapid growth in information technology, biotechnology and the expansion of the Internet, providing almost unlimited access to information. Companies have rapidly risen to prominence through new technology. Their financial and personnel growth has been phenomenal. Other more traditional companies have faltered or had to make radical adjustments to the way they conduct business or make decisions. Companies and organizations have had to reinvent themselves to survive or be gobbled up in the merger mania. Competition has become global and very aggressive. Fortunes are made and lost based upon the performance of small groups of people. Growth is being experienced in practically in all disciplines. Change is all about us. Organizations, companies and groups of people must have effective leadership to survive.

Reflections on Leadership

Historically, senior management has not seen the link between people and bottom line business results. Annual reports are prepared with sentiments such as ‘people are our most important asset’ or that ‘people are our source of competitive advantage,’ but many of these same organizations are reluctant to spend time, money and energy on programmes that will help people to perform and contribute to their optimum level. Companies which would not in their wildest dreams allow a major piece of capital equipment to go without repair, maintenance or upgrading allow their people assets to rust and deteriorate in their performance. The problem is neither dishonesty nor malicious, evil disregard for people. The problem is the failure to see the link between people and business results. It is based on a misguided view that ‘strategy’ or ‘process’ is more important than people.

What do you think it is that makes a company truly successful? Is it leaders, technology, products, strategy? It can be argued that any company’s business success is a function of all of those factors (and others) working in concert. But in my opinion, the single most important foundation stone of business success today is leadership – especially visionary leadership.

Unfortunately, many companies are hobbled by a lack of visionary leadership and the effective process tools that they can use to enhance their critical leadership competency. Executives today face some tough challenges – more complex and demanding than ever. Global forces, e-business, shifts in industry partnerships as well as evolving global networks and alliances challenge both your leadership style and personal insight. When was the last time you had a tune-up of your leadership practices?

And finally don’t follow the antiquated notion that only top executives can be leaders. Leadership should occur at all levels.

[Photo credit: Ambro]