Every time I’ve worked with a senior team in the strategy formulation process, we’ve succeeded. Of course, I’ve never heard any group of executives say their strategy failed when it was created. It is in the implementation or execution that strategies falter, because most strategies rely on people in the organization taking action in new or different ways. That doesn’t happen by declaration. And it doesn’t happen when people are sent to training programs, though it is popular to pitch this to HR or Talent Management. If you want your strategy to work, it is up to the CEO and senior leaders of the business to drive it and you’ll need the help of what I call Hidden Leaders to be your exemplars and role models.
Hidden Leaders are the individual contributors, front line supervisors, and middle managers that bring your strategy to life everyday. They are the employees who go the extra mile for your customers, the ones who can be counted on to deliver great results, the ones whose opinions are trusted by colleagues; they are your go to people at every level of the business. I wrote the book The Hidden Leader because we don’t often think of leaders occupying these kinds of roles. Leadership has come to mean position or title in most companies, but there is a tremendous amount of leadership in places we don’t typically look that is lying fallow.
So while it is necessary to have good leadership in the senor management ranks, it’s not sufficient to achieve the growth many CEO’s desire. But, you’ll have few Hidden Leaders if the very visible leaders don’t establish the kind of culture that cultivates leadership at all levels. Since culture is really about the mindset or beliefs that guide behaviors, that is your starting point.
- Can you identify the people who have the greatest influence on how people in your company, division, or office behave?
- Does your business provide reinforcement for the behaviors you desire, separate from results achieved? (e.g. Rewards for innovative efforts that don’t work out.)
- Are there consequences for behaviors that are counterproductive, even if the outcome is a win?
I’ve seen very sound strategies fail, and average strategies achieve strong objectives. The difference in the CEO’s was the creation of an environment that allowed them to rely on leaders at all levels to power the implementation.