Elisabet Hearn and I wrote this article for 2020visionleader.com
More than ever, the world needs leaders who are strategically focused on the long-term picture; long-term sustainable organisational success – not just their own short-term success.
Have you observed how when a new (senior) leader joins a team/division/organisation they are typically expected to put their own ‘mark’ on it?
We call this a ‘Ruler’ leader. Everyone’s eyes are on them; what will they do? What’s their vision? What impact will they make?
There are times when businesses need an overhaul and this kind of approach is perfectly reasonable and needed. But often it’s actually not the best strategy. In global organisations the ruler leadership culture means strategies and tactics change every two to three years as senior leaders come and go.
This kind of short-sighted approach is too common in business. When organisations keep changing strategy and tactical approach too frequently, it doesn’t allow for previous strategies and plans to be carried out to completion, and results seen.
Add to this the reality that many leaders take on leadership roles for a mere few years to further their career, and because it’s the norm. There are of course benefits with leaders that have had many different roles and build up their experience and ability to see the bigger picture, but that’s a topic for another day.
Overall the ruler leadership isn’t sustainable, it’s costly and it’s demotivating for employees.
Specifically, it can result in:
- Employees becoming disenchanted with the continuous change of direction as they don’t get to see the results, and they lose track of why change is happening or what the organisation stands for
- Constant ‘chopping and changing’ is costly; particularly when ideas are not carried through to completion where there could be a pay-off on the investment (in time, effort and money)
- Leaders being tempted to make short-term decisions that look good on the quarterly report and are good for their own careers but may be detrimental to the business longer-term
- More (unnecessary) change in an already fast-changing world
- People being weary of change and so resisting it, thinking “here we go again, another boss, another reset”
There’s a need, a desire and a passion for a different type of leadership. We call this Long-Game Leadership.
Or to use the spirit of Patek Philippe’s advertising slogan for their watches: ”you don’t own/rule an organisation, you are only looking after it for future generations”.
And there are of course leaders that operate like this already, but there’s simply not enough of them.
A leader’s role should be to make the most of the resources they have been appointed to, and make them grow and flourish. The Long-Game leaders are very aware they are leading the team for a period of time only. They think of the legacy they are picking up when they join, the legacy of what they want to leave behind when they move on to their next role.
They ensure the leadership role they play is bigger than themselves and truly sustainable therefore ”making their mark” in a very different way, in the Long-Game way.
Leadership is a choice, not a position.Stephen Covey
When a Long-Game leader joins an organisation they look at the existing business, its goals, priorities, and resources and think:
- How can I build on this?
- How can I progress what’s already underway (assuming it is still viable)?
- How can I, by adding my experience and skills, fast-forward the journey to success, together with the stakeholders involved? And continue to lay the tracks into the future?
Leadership is changing
The overall speed of change we are all experiencing means that the whole concept of leadership is changing as we speak.
What was expected just a few years ago has already changed. Leadership is becoming more collective; no one has all the answers, the leader needs to become the unifying factor that gets people working well together so that the best ideas can be created together with others. The Long-Game leader is all about that.
Your impact is your legacyMandy Flint & Elisabet Vinberg Hearn
It’s high time to ‘rethink’ leadership, in order to be successful into the future.