The Effects of Redefining Leadership Performance

When we redefine leadership performance to be: creating the environment for success where people can bring their best, thrive and actually want to work… we see incredible effects. This article is intended to document some of our findings and to enable others to see, through what we’ve seen.

The impacts detailed below are as extensive as the leader’s reach in the organization and how much they choose to spread this to others. This is true regardless of leadership title or “sphere of influence” or formality or informality of leadership structures.

Here’s some of what happens when you redefine leadership performance as above:

  • Multiplication of Value: as a leader creates value in a different way, others can multiply the value they’re creating as well.
    • If a leader only creates value in terms of giving direction and solving problems, they act as a limiter and a bottleneck for the team(s) – a team can never exceed the capability or the speed of this leader. Often we see that leaders are in their own way in terms of multiplying value – they act as if the workplace is a Nascar race but they are the safety car on the track, and in fact they stay on the track all the time, never allowing the race to occur, never allowing agency of the people, the drivers.
  • Better and faster decision making and value creation: as a leader focuses on removing roadblocks (sometimes themselves as the roadblock) and enables decision making, including the skills to facilitate others to make decisions, the entire cycle of value creation accelerates
    • When leaders begin to truly enable decision making by helping people think, and see the bigger picture, the entire system functions in a better state of performance – people share ownership, thinking is enabled, innovation flourishes and more value is created more quickly.
  • More competent and engaged people: as people are enabled to create more value, they learn and grow and the cycle continues.
    • We know that two of the top reasons people leave (or stay) are related to their sense of “am I valued by the organization / by my leader” – this is also tied to their sense of agency and “making meaning” by doing meaningful work – this is one of the most fundamental human needs. A third important factor in retention and engagement is a person’s ability to grow. Leaders account for over 70% of the variability in engagement scores.
  • More capable leaders who are also more engaged: as leaders are for themselves creating more meaning, they are themselves more engaged.
    • This is critically important as we know from engagement research that as few as 36% of leaders are engaged at work. The other 74% are transmitting to the people around them disengagement, resulting in a decrease in overall productivity and no doubt enjoyment, with a corresponding increase in stress.
  • Lift the capability of the whole organization: as we grow others, leaders grant themselves permission to “not have all the answers” and help others find them.
    • We know that research shows that in a complex environment (which we all operate in), the least likely place to find new innovative answers or solutions to confounding problems is in fact at the top, or within one person – quite simply, one person does not have the capacity to know everything that is needed to create a new solution, although we often tell ourselves otherwise.
  • Leadership behaviours such as “Enabling” and “Facilitating” increase decision-making: as we enable decision-making, we accelerate productivity, innovation, team value creation.
    • We know that people, teams, organizations can’t move any faster than decisions can be made – this is the speed limit. As decision-making capability grows, along with an approach to make smaller decisions faster and experimentation to test and move things along, teams move faster and in fact lower risk.
  • More ownership of individual performance: as we enable people and focus leadership on creating environments for success where people can bring their best, we also enable agency and ownership in one’s own performance.
    • People do not come to work to fail, or to do a terrible job. In fact they have an innate desire to succeed, to create value, to make meaningful contributions and the more we can create the environment for this thinking and behaviour to surface, the more it gives us the results we’re all looking for in our organizations – success, however we define it. Performance IS the job, it is your product as a person at work.

As the great leadership philosopher Peter Koestenbaum said “Where people grow, profits grow.”

As a leader you have a fundamental responsibility to enable people performance; this enables business performance, whatever that result you’re aiming to achieve. Your business can’t outgrow its people, it especially can’t outgrow its leaders.

When we redefine leadership performance, leaders grow to lead differently, people are enabled, and so too are the results that your business can create.

Redefining leadership performance to be: creating the environment for success/results where people can bring their best, thrive and actually want to work… and measuring and rewarding leaders based on the performance they’re creating in others. Ahhh how the world would be different if everyone did this.

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