Leadership Development

3 Steps Every Leader Needs to Follow

Leadership is complex. Ultimately our job as leaders is the process of accomplishing work through others. As an individual contributor, you are measured based on the work you accomplished. As a leader, you will be measured by what you accomplish as a team and through others. 3 steps in the fundamental work of leaders is creating a vision, building alignment around that vision, and championing execution of the vision.

Many people know that a vision sets the stage for an organization’s growth. What might be new is that a vision doesn’t only exist at the lofty level of presidents and CEOs. Leaders at every level are responsible for crafting a vision. Your company likely has a vision statement, however Middle managers and frontline managers need to create a vision for their group that supports the organization’s vision. These visions will look different from top-level visions, but are equally important to the success of the organization. Vision statements for your group expands assumptions about what can be done. It provides purpose for organizations, teams, and individuals (including the leader). It drives the development of specific, vision-supporting goals and It unifies people.

Exploration Drives Vision
Although a great vision often sounds simple and elegant, a good deal of effort and insight has usually gone into developing it. There is a discipline to exploring new ideas that involves thinking at a big-picture level. It also involves resisting the temptation to choose the “right” idea too quickly. Leaders need to be intentional about exploring new directions and suspend judgment in order to consider a variety of ideas. Exploration involves giving oneself the time to weigh options.

Boldness Drives Vision Creating a bold vision doesn’t necessarily mean doing something on a big scale. But it does mean that the leader has a willingness to go out on a limb to champion bold new directions. Great leaders stretch the boundaries of what seems possible and challenge people to rise to the occasion. Leaders don’t make a big impact without being a little adventurous. People look to leaders for a compelling vision that excites them. Every great accomplishment begins with a bold idea. Being adventurous & speaking out will help when creating a bold vision.

Testing Assumptions Drives Vision Creating a vision requires exploring ideas and being bold, but it’s also crucial that the vision be grounded. Leaders can test their assumptions through several means, including seeking others’ advice and doing more formal research. This is not about looking for support, but instead is about soliciting objective input and surfacing potential problems. Leaders need to look beyond their own thinking to test assumptions. It's important to recognize obstacles when developing a vision. Consider a variety of methods in checking your hypotheses.

2. ALIGNMENT is gaining buy-in from the organization and your team. This is getting buy-in for the vision from everyone who will have a role in making it a reality. It ensures that everyone is on the same page, both from a task and an emotional perspective. Alignment requires ongoing one-way and two-way communication. In fact, the failure of a vision, no matter when it happens, can often have more to do with a lack of alignment than with the strength of the vision or the efficiency of execution. Too often, leaders treat alignment as something to check off a to-do list. In reality, alignment is a dynamic, ongoing process that requires the leader to continually monitor and realign as conditions and needs change.

Clarity Drives Alignment Some leaders have trouble translating their great ideas into words. Others struggle to stay on topic or fail to relay the most important points. When people don’t understand your vision, how can you expect them to get on board? When people understand a message, they can more easily buy in.

Dialogue Drives Alignment One of the simplest ways to get others aligned around the vision is to engage them in a rich dialogue about the “who,” “what,” “why,” “where,” “when,” and “how” questions. Involve others in two-way communications to increase by-in and also gain invaluable information. True alignment requires openness to others' ideas and concerns.

Inspiration Drives Alignment How do leaders get people truly excited to start a new project or initiative? They inspire others by painting an exciting picture of the future, sharing their own passion, and showing confidence in the team’s ability to succeed. Leaders who are able to inspire others in this way are much more successful in gaining and maintaining buy-in. Real buy-in isn't just getting people to go through the motions. When you express your passion, others become more committed. People need to see how their efforts will contribute to success.

3. EXECUTION At the most basic level, execution is making the vision a reality. The leader must make sure that all conditions are in place so that everyone can do the work necessary to fulfill the vision. Often people think of execution as something that happens in the trenches, while the leader sits in an office thinking up the big ideas. But the truth is that successful execution of a vision can’t happen without the deep commitment and support of the leader. Execution propels the development of concrete strategies and makes the vision actionable. It gives people a sense of achievement wile fulfilling the promise of the vision.

Momentum Drives Execution Leaders often set the pace for the group, so when they tend to be too low key, people may not feel the sense of momentum that’s needed to realize the vision. By being driven and proactive—and also by acknowledging others who take initiative—leaders send the message that getting things done at a brisk pace is important. Leaders often set an example when it comes to momentum. People tend to perform to the level of momentum that’s expected. Without a sense of momentum, projects can stall out and fail.

Structure Drives Execution To execute on a vision effectively, leaders need to ensure that people have enough structure to follow. Without appropriate processes, policies, and expectations in place, teams operate inefficiently and are less likely to create high-quality outcomes. To create structure, leaders need to make well thought-out plans and analyze complex problems. To work productively, people need to know what is expected. Effective leaders respond to the structure needs of their teams. Structure helps to produce predictable, reliable outcomes.

Feedback Drives Execution In order to ensure that the vision is executed, leaders must provide both critical and positive feedback. When inefficiencies and complications are evident, leaders need to be willing to speak up. And, when people are performing well, it’s equally important to provide the appropriate praise and recognition to keep everyone engaged. Feedback from leaders helps people know how they're performing. Leaders need to be willing to address problems head-on. Recognizing contributions encourages ownership and engagement.

Buddy to Boss

Leadership is the art of giving people a platform for spreading ideas that work.
— Seth Godin

Does your organization struggle to promote new leaders effectively into their new role?  Recently I was leading a training of a new group of leaders moving from “buddy to boss.”  We talked about the need to shift from exclusively ‘doing’ to achieving results through directing, delegating, motivating and empowering others.  This is often where new leaders fall down in their effectiveness.  Here are some areas that are critical to address for successful leadership and strong career advancement:

  • Increase self-awareness and awareness of others.  This is foundation for emotional intelligence.

  • Develop the ability to engage, coach and develop others.  If done well, it eliminates the need for a formal performance evaluation--the most hated of all HR processes.

  • Learn how to create a spark in their creativity and innovation.  There is a myth that some people are not creative.  They key here is to create an environment where learning can flourish.   

  • Engage in difficult conversations; the ability to provide feedback and hold others accountable for results.  This skill is quite challenging for some.  Have a method or formula to do this is essential for developing this competency.

  • Manage through change and maintain resiliency.    If your business is not changing, then it is not growing and will become stagnate and obsolete. 


Despite how critical this role is to the overall effectiveness of teams and organizations, over 80% of those who try to transition to their first leadership role fail to make the shift successfully.  Often new leaders receive training a long time after their promotion leading them and their teams to stumble.  The best employers set their high potentials up for success, by training them well in advance of their promotion, so they can hit the ground running without missing a beat.  Strong leaders can drive your business forward when they are highly engaged, proactive and armed with tools to lead. 

13 Leadership Skills You Didn’t Need a Decade Ago That are Now Essential

Last month, Forbes’ article: 13 Leadership Skills You Didn’t Need a Decade Ago That Are Now Essential listed these critical leadership skills:

  1. Executive Presence
  2. Resiliency
  3. Culture Management
  4. Navigation of Ambiguity
  5. Hybrid of Skills
  6. Multigenerational Management
  7. Collaboration
  8. Emotional Intelligence
  9. Social Media Presence
  10. Authenticity
  11. Mastery of Crucial Conversations
  12. Leadership of Virtual Teams and Independent Contractors
  13. Co-Creative Leadership

How do your leadership development programs line up with this list?  Does it need an overhaul to stay up to date?  Essential leadership skills evolve over time as do the needs of businesses.  If you haven’t updated your required leadership competencies in some time, please drop me a line and let’s start the conversation.  We can have you up to date in no time!