Working with a new CEO, we both thought it would be good to define her leadership in a deliberate manner. The goal was to give her a consistent, clear platform for communication and prioritization based on strong context: What’s most important to her, and how to synchornize that with the needs of her organization.
I gave her a series of questions to answer. They helped her to communicate, prioritize, and involve herself effectively in key business areas right out of the gate, something that positively impacted her leadership team, board, and investors.
I realized these eight questions could help other executives -- at any level -- define / clarify their leadership in an intentional way, which is why I decided to share them here. I’ve written previously about many of the topics reflected in the questions, so if you want to drill down on them, let me know, and I can provide you links to additional information.
1. What is your preferred style of leadership?
Examples: 1) Starter (Start Up Person) / Builder / Fixer / Runner; 2) Autocratic / Participative / Laissez-faire; 3) Task versus Relationship versus Balanced; Reactive versus Creative; 4) Level 5: Develop humility; ask for help; take responsibility; develop discipline; find the right people; lead with passion; 5) Servant-leader, et al.
2. What is the highest-priority need of your organization from its leader over [pick a time frame] the next year / next two to three years?
Examples: 1) Effective execution of business or strategic plan; 2) Turn-around; 3) Sales growth; 4) Earnings growth; 5) Expansion into new products / markets; 6) Globalization; 7) Talent development / optimization, et al.
3. In what ways is your organization its own worst enemy? That is, how does it tend to get in its own way, or create its own obstacles? Use your answer to define one to two key priorities that should be applied consistently.
4. What’s the “elephant in the room” among your leadership team? That is, the thing(s) no one wants to say or discuss, but nevertheless could be helpful if addressed directly. Ask them.
5. For each major segment of your organization, in what one or two key areas do you want your people to show extraordinary leadership?
Examples: 1) IT: Platform / technology simplification; 2) Finance: Procurement and payables innovation; 3) HR: Organizational culture change / innovation; 4) Leadership Team: Collaboration and cooperation; 5) Marketing: More effective brand positioning; 6) Operations: Capacity growth, etc.
6. Considering your tendency to be more hands-on or hand-off, which organizational unit, business or project areas need you to be more involved, rather than simply informed?
How to use this: determine a set of standards that will guide you to balance dynamically between one end of the spectrum (hands off) versus the other (hands on), make those standards explicit to your team, and stick with them consistently.
7. Considering the value of continuous learning, what are your own professional development plans? That is, what are you working to develop in your own skill or style set? And what is your learning approach to continue to make progress there?
8. How are your values and core professional purpose – what’s most important to you -- to be clearly reflected in your leadership?
Determining this: Consider your own professional purpose (what truly fires you up about your work) and your values (what, if violated in some way, will be unacceptable to you) – in what ways will you integrate these things into your organization?