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John Maxwell Team Certified Member

Priscilla Archangel is a John Maxwell Team Certified Coach, Teacher and Speaker.

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    Sustainable Leadership: What Happens When the Glue Fails

    glue broken itemA key requirement of good leadership is to ensure that the organization and its initiatives are sustainable, both during and beyond the leader’s tenure there. This means that the company’s values, beliefs, goals and objectives cannot be dependent upon a single or few people as the glue holding it together. Situations will inevitably occur where such individuals are no longer a part of the organization, and thus the glue fails.

    Business start-ups and transformations are frequently initially driven by individuals who possess the personal characteristics necessary to bring a team together and drive toward a goal. But they must always transfer those qualities to others to sustain the growth of the business. They must multiply themselves throughout the organization, to ensure that the right people are in place to maintain and carry it forward.

    There are several well-known examples of CEO-founders whose vision was critical to the company’s success. When they left those roles, their companies struggled until they returned to provide strong guidance that resulted in improved business outcomes.

    • Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple left the company in 1985 after a disagreement on product strategy. The company went through a series of CEOs and failed products before Jobs returned and was appointed CEO in 1997.
    • Howard Schultz became CEO of Starbucks in 1982, growing it from four to over 3,500 stores with $2 billion in revenue. He resigned in 2000 but returned 8 years later because performance was declining, and he felt the organization had strayed from its core values.
    • Michael Dell founded Dell Computers as a freshman in his college dorm room. He led it from 1984 to 2004 when he moved away from daily operations and just held the chairman role. But three years later he returned to the CEO role to address declining sales.

    Certain aspects of Jobs’, Schultz’s and Dell’s leadership was widely respected both internally and externally, and initial decisions that those companies could progress without them proved erroneous.

    The Glue
    The “glue” leader in an organization typically exhibits the vision to see future possibilities, a passion or personal resolve to pursue an otherwise unattainable goal and the capability to accomplish it.

    The obvious problem is that if all of these strengths are held by a single person, it results in an accompanying fragility, because if that person is no longer in place, the organization or initiative can fail. Sustainability is dependent upon the glue that if removed causes the structure to collapse like a house of cards. Thus, companies with broader initiatives need a stronger infrastructure to hold it together.

    The same principle applies when two pieces of steel are welded (glued) together as part of assembling a vehicle. The welding forms a series of spots along the length of the pieces, establishing a continuous connection. If one spots fails, it won’t separate the whole. But if there are only a few welded spots, no matter how strong each one is, the bond between the two pieces is fragile and susceptible to breakage.

    Good leadership succession planning is an important part of leadership sustainability. Sustainable organizations continuously ensure that they are developing multiple capable leaders to assume additional levels of responsibility. And when some leaders possess skill sets that are more critical to the success of the team, they’re required to coach and mentor others in those areas.

    The Ingredients
    As a leader, you can build an organization that is sustainable not only while you’re there, but as a legacy when you depart. Here are several keys to developing sustainability.

    1. Practice Humility – Never believe that you’re the only one capable of providing such leadership. Instead, believe that you’re the right person for the right time, and bring others into your circle of leadership.
    2. Plan Succession – By coaching, mentoring and developing others in your area of expertise, you will ensure the future capability of the organization.
    3. Actively Communicate – The vision can’t be fully contained in your mind. You must repeatedly share it with others, enabling them to “see” it and understand their role in accomplishing it. They must be empowered to pick up the mantle, take it as their own and share it with others.
    4. Build Culture – There are beliefs, values, behaviors and processes that support the initiative. These must be identified, practiced and improved upon to ensure repeatability.
    5. Encourage Innovation – Don’t assume that because you have the vision and strategy, every plan will easily be executed. The VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) environment requires multiple creative approaches for the business to provide products and services that meet customer needs.

    Sustainable leadership ensures the ongoing success of organizational strategies and initiatives by investing in people. Critical leadership characteristics held by a few are transferred and integrated into many, who are empowered to assume responsibility and carry it forward. The “glue” is abundantly spread throughout the organization for greater gain.

    Copyright 2018 Priscilla Archangel
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