Consider these business leaders: Ken Lay of Enron. Bernie Ebbers of MCI Worldcom and Dennis Kozlolowski of Tyco.
What do these CEOs – ahem – former CEOs of former companies – have in common? Well, each was highlighted as a most successful business leader in the wildly successful business book Lessons from the Top, published in 1999. And each has a story that doesn’t end well.
Yet, because we are all suckers for a good story, we won’t let that get in the way of encouraging everyone in your organization to buy the book by the next great leader who somehow was either born or made into the perfect solution for business success. This leader (and associated book) may in fact have wisdom to share regarding what worked for their organization in that moment in time. Their results may hold-up to ethical scrutiny and be worthy of understanding, but their results will not be because they are a great leader.
Fact is, the concept of a great leader is a myth. It suggests that some individuals have leadership figured out and because of that, in any situation, they will be successful with that same approach. A perfect example of the great leader myth is Winston Churchill. He was a great leader during WWII. But before and after the war…not great. While the world was grateful for his leadership in WWII, the reality is his only approach to leadership worked for that moment. And when the moment was gone, so was his perceived value as a leader.
Effective leadership is more about understanding yourself, your people and your collective purpose — and applying that knowledge to the context of your environment. When trusted with the privilege of leading others, you have the responsibility to analyze, align and act:
- Analyze the available data. Don’t have data? You might be missing the obvious. Start by being curious and asking key stakeholders questions, be it via 1:1s, small groups, surveys, assessments, etc. Then listen to understand.
- Align your resources to meet the identified needs. You and your leadership team need to be aligned on what is needed from each of you to lead your organization in this moment.
- Act on what you learn and continually re-align based on data as you go. Effective leadership is about doing, not just knowing and planning. A good plan of action involves two-way communication opportunities, checking in with stakeholders for real-time input and ongoing sharing of the progress you are making together.
Rinse and repeat. There is no finish line. As you begin to take action, continue to analyze and align.
The importance of optimizing individual and collective leadership team strengths based on the interrelated complexities of your organization and healthcare as a whole, cannot be overstated.
So, don’t waste your time trying to be, find or grow the next great leader. Instead, focus on creating an environment that fosters great leadership across individuals and teams by analyzing, aligning and acting. Measure what matters and move past the limits of individual leader labels and focus on the effectiveness of the leadership as a whole.
Don’t know where to start? We can help.
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Author: Kevin Kearns
Image Credit: Shannon Threadgill
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