How do stand-out leaders create not just a successful future for their organization but a breakthrough amazing one?
They don’t participate in the bottoms-up Leadership world.
The bottoms-up world places the emphasis on management developing proposals and gaining approval from the leader to proceed.
The proposition put to the leader typically involves a brief assessment of a few potential alternatives and the selection of the best course of action to take; the one that provides the highest potential net benefit to the organization at least on paper.
We all know the difference between what the business case predicts as a benefit to and what is actually realized. Rarely do the actual benefits mirror what was proposed if the comparison is made at all.
What value does the leader provide in such a process?
At best they question the business case assumptions, debate the customer value proposition and give their royal assent.
The results of this approach are imprecise incremental gains.
If we add a product to a product portfolio, revenue increases and if costs come in on target margins are enhanced.
If we acquire another organization with its customer base and people skills and competencies, the deal has a certain accretive value assuming an effective strategy to integrate the new entity.
This process drives most organizations and is their growth engine. Choose the option that has the best paper benefit and go with it.
Nothing wrong with this approach but it doesn’t work if leaders are looking for breakthrough performance; to take their organization to the next level.
Breakthrough performance comes from a tops-down perspective of leadership.
It doesn’t come from choosing among the various paths to follow particularly when the implied benefits are imprecise.
Breakthroughs come from creating a future that you and only you own.
Creating a new box to play in.
Colouring outside the lines to form art that has your signature alone.
Mind-blowing performance is the result of creation not choice.
Create a completely different set of customer solutions rather than incrementing the current product line.
Create a completely new set of competencies required to do something completely different rather than annexing strengths of another organization that you bolt on to yours.
As a leader, the next time you are asked to choose, don’t.
Ask for the “antimatter” choice.
Ask for “the impossible”; the unheard of; the unconventional.
The choice that will place you 180 degrees out of phase with everyone else in your market ace.
Talk about that.
Do a cost-benefit analysis on that.
Ask not how can we extend our business and grow, but how can we replace our business with a new version that is more relevant to what customers desire and one that will better survive the vagaries of the future.
Unless your chosen path broaches the unknown, you are on an incremental growth curve.
Extending the present business incrementally into a different and more volatile future is not only risky, it could be deadly.