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Growing in a Leadership Position

Easy to be a Peace Time Leader

When times are great it’s easy to be a “peace time leader”. Sales are good, the supply chain is rocking, the marketing plan is working, hitting your cost targets. You look forward to making those customer calls. You listen to talk radio on the way to work vs. voice mail and making phone calls.

All is good in the world.

If you are lucky these results were the work of the previous leader who had everything in motion and you got enjoy the success of their work. If it was your work, congrats, job well done.

But this is where leaders make a big mistake. They enjoy their success too much. They take the victory lap. They spend too much time making presentations about what they did. They have too many lunches and dinners that discuss the past and the decisions they made to get there. They calculate their bonus and plan that big vacation. Enjoy because it will not last.

Focus on the Future

This is when leaders turn to their leadership philosophy and know its time to re-think and re-evaluate the business. They should be looking around the corners and asking hard questions about the business. They do not get comfortable and baste in their glory of winning. They plan for the next big breakthrough.

Great leaders already have multiple tests in the marketplace that are pushing their companies into new areas of growth. These initiatives are carefully measured and are quickly scaled if they meet their metrics and quickly eliminated if they do not. There is no emotional connection to the projects. If they work they get funded. If they don’t they go away.

The great leaders are also always recruiting new talent. They know when their best people have earned a promotion and are looking for that opportunity for them. They have a list of candidates they have personally screened and vetted for each job on their team. And they know which people need to find a new assignment because it’s not working for the team. Great leaders are always thinking about their future team and what talent they will need 2-3 years down the road. Great teams always outperform all other teams over time. It’s one of the top jobs of a leader. Build a great team.

I lead multiple teams in my 38 year corporate career and my goal was to have a team that everyone in the company wanted to work on because they knew they would grow, they would be pushed way outside their comfort zones, and if they performed it was highly likely they would get promoted. I wanted the team everyone wanted to work on.

The Best Leaders have Competitive Intelligence.

These leaders spend significant time in the marketplace and with customers.

The most powerful leaders possess an intimate, personal understanding of the competitive landscape. They know that the next big breakthrough is in the marketplace, now, it has just not been scaled yet.

They understand it because they make the marketplace a priority. They place a priority on being in the marketplace vs being in meetings. They know the next big idea is not going to take place at the next staff meeting. They don’t let their functional leaders, sales, supply chain, marketing, finance, etc tell them what the competition is doing. They spend time in the marketplace and develop their own POV about what is happening and what their companies need to do. They push their functional leaders to be faster, more innovative, or to lower cost.

These are the leaders who make the news, not report the news.

These are the leaders who do not get surprise by competition. They don’t get out flanked and pushed to an unfavorable position. And they are not the leaders who have to lead a shrinking organization or worse, they lose their jobs.

So to be a great leader, develop your personal leadership philosophy and have your eyes and feet in the marketplace because it will tell you what to do.

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