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How Do You Become a Successful Long Term Leader?

To be a senior leader, COO or CEO of an enterprise for he long haul you must have a leadership philosophy that will excel your teams in the good times and more importantly navigate them in the tough times.

Leadership Philosophy

A leadership philosophy is a list of behaviors that a leader follows that is personal, authentic and temper tested. These are behaviors that have been communicated to their teams that provides dependable and predictable behavior so their teams know exactly what the leader expects when making decisions and navigating the ever changing competitive landscape. It provides confidence to their teams on how the leader will make decisions and what information they need to provide to help them make the decision. There are few surprises. It provides predictability that is critical for a leader.

I spent years learning what behaviors were genuine to me and gave me a competitive advantage in the marketplace. This is hard work but work that stands the test of time and gives you confidence that if you stay the course against your leadership philosophy you will be successful over time. You might not have the best results every year but when you look back over time your teams have consistently out delivered all others. That was more important to me than having a great year followed by a bad year followed by a great year, etc. I am sure you have seen those leaders. Having long -term success was my measurement. I watched lots of teams hit big numbers for a year or so only to have them come crashing back to earth because the decisions were short term focused and were not sustainable.

For example a few of my leadership philosophies are, understanding your brand and being true to it, the best win wins, the answers are in the marketplace not a conference room, always be recruiting for new talent, master your listening skills, peers promote you, and never give feedback about your boss. My complete list has 15 behaviors but I will save the rest for later,

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, teams are hitting their cost targets.

All is good in the world.

This is when many leaders make mistakes. They start taking a victory lap and spend their time basking in the limelight of a winning year.

They should be planning and preparing for the future.

Focus on the Future

During the good times is when leaders with the right leadership philosophy know its times to re-think and re-evaluate the business. They should be looking around the corners and asking hard questions about the business.

They make the tough decisions about initiatives that are not working and stop them. They make sure they have the right tests in the marketplace that will give them their next big idea maybe 2 or 3 big ideas. They are working this process everyday to make sure they have great ideas for the next couple of years.

The Best Leaders have Competitive Intelligence.

Some of the most powerful leaders possess an intimate, personal understanding of the competitive landscape. They know that the next big breakthrough is out in the marketplace, today, it has just not been scaled. They understand it because they make the marketplace a priority. They place a priority on being in the marketplace vs being in meetings. They spend time with customers vs being in staff meetings. They ask customers the tough questions about their performance and flat spots and take action against them. They don’t just rely of their functional leaders, sales, supply chain, marketing, finance, etc to tell them what the competition is doing. The best leaders know what is happening in the marketplace because they spend time understanding it because they spend time watching and forming points of view about what is happening.

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

Developing your leadership philosophy is hard work and takes time. Focusing on the future and developing competitive intelligence is about discipline and dedication to doing the work. It’s not hard work but it must be a leadership commitment. There will always be more meetings people want you to attend. There will be endless corporate demands on a leaders time but nothing is more important than focusing on the future and spending consistent, high quality, time in the marketplace with customers and checking out your competition.

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