The One Advantage You Need To Lead Out Of Troubled Times

It’s tough economic times in my home province of Alberta due to a halving of the price of oil, yet there is a cautious consensus that things are stabilizing and people are starting to hire and grow.

Read more about talking to your people in tough times

As people start to hire, they are surprised to realize that there is as much business risk in growth as there is contraction; but what do leaders need to get the full advantage out of growing?

There is a minimal competitive advantage gained from strategy, technology, finance or marketing. These disciplines are essential as they can set one company apart from another, and knowledge of each has become ubiquitous and democratic. Any size organization has unlimited access to the best thinking and practices around those subjects.

The one remaining untapped, simple, reliable and virtually free competitive advantage is a healthy and robust leadership culture.

A leadership culture can eliminate politics and confusion from the environment, cause productivity and morale to soar and prevent good people from leaving. The most brilliant organization in the world can fail if it does not have a leadership culture – look at Uber.

I’ve seen it repeatedly when a healthy leadership culture will always find a way to succeed because it will tap into every bit of human intelligence it has. I have led volunteers & staff to respond to some of the most significant disasters of our time by unleashing human talent.

Why haven’t more companies embraced and reaped the benefits of a leadership culture? 

Quite frankly, it’s hard. It requires real work and focused discipline. Therefore it has no appeal to those looking for a quick fix.

But the biggest reason is that it requires courage. 

Leaders must be willing to confront themselves, their peers, and the dysfunction within their organization with honesty and persistence. They must be prepared to walk straight into uncomfortable situations and address issues preventing them from realizing their potential.

Read more about leading with courage.

What exactly does an organization have to do to develop a leadership culture? There are three simple but complex steps:

1. Build a Tight Leadership Team – Get the organization’s leaders to behave in a functional, cohesive way. If the people responsible for running an organization act dysfunctional, that dysfunction will cascade into the rest of the organization and success.

2. Create & Communicate Clarity – The second step for building a healthy organization is ensuring that the leadership team members are aligned and clear on the organization’s existence and the highest essential priorities. Leaders must eliminate gaps between them so that people have complete clarity about what they need to do to make the organization successful.

Then over-communicating that clarity. Leaders build a culture of leadership personally and consistently repeat themselves and reinforce what is important. This action sets leaders of healthy organizations apart.

3. Reinforce – Leaders must ensure that any process involving people, from hiring and firing to performance management and decision-making, is designed to support and emphasize the organization’s success intentionally.

Can an organization with a healthy culture of leadership fail? Yes. 

When politics, ambiguity, dysfunction and confusion are reduced, people are freed to serve clients, solve problems and help one another in ways that will leave unhealthy organizations behind as you turn the economic corner. 

Healthy organizations recover from setbacks, attract the best people, repel others, and create opportunities that, at the end of the day, create an environment of success.