Leadership is one of those subjects that have had numerable living examples. However, it is an area of study, which cannot be judged by the success or failure of the individual battles but rather by the outcome of the war. If you search this topic on the internet, you will find many lists of behaviors, traits, and measurements, which are deemed necessary for effective leadership. Most of these can be reduced to a set of foundational building blocks.
In Larry Bossiby’s and Ram Charan’s book, The Discipleship of Getting Things Done, they discuss what they have termed the Building Blocks of Execution; specifically, “The Leaders Seven Essential Behaviors”. Interestingly enough, all of the most important leadership qualities fit neatly into these seven behaviors. Moreover, each of these seven behaviors can be linked to a part of the human body. This allows us to emphasize the reality that they are all equally important, and that all are essential to produce a well-functioning leadership machine (Bossidy, 2002).
The first building block presented is to “Know Your People and Your Business”. As expressed in the book, it is important to remember that the majority of the information a leader receives has been filtered by those who are summarizing the details into a general overview. This allows it to be more easily digested. It also enhances the need for the leader to not simply trust in those reports, but to be intimately involved on several levels. To accomplish this, the leader must first know his people. The authors have termed it, “to live the business”. In short, it means that it is crucial to know what is going on inside the business, and not merely view it as a spectator. As it relates to the human body, one could think of this as the brain. The knowledge one has about the business, both type and degree, is an important factor as it correlates to both the people and the business.
The second building block it is to “Insist on Realism”. Realistic views create realistic assessments, which produce realistic solutions. It is important to understand the reality of the situation. Making excuses in an effort to make ourselves, or the business, appear better than it is, will only lead to failure in the end. As mentioned in the book, this really is the heart of execution. This is where it all comes together or falls apart. The lifeblood is in knowing that the information we have is true and accurate. Without it, all of the corresponding work is skewed.
The third block is to “Set Clear Goals and Priorities”. A leader should spend the time necessary to determine which goals will be most beneficial to the business. Each goal should then be prioritized based upon its relationship to the business vision and needs. The leader should be mindful to choose a few goals that are important to assure that the goals do not conflict with available resources (Moynihan, 2012). Think of these as if they are the leader’s mouth; those things that are communicated to the organization. The leader communication must be clean, concise and direct (De Vries, 2010).
The fourth block is the “Follow Through”. It is equally important to act upon those things that we have taken the time and resources to evaluate, and decided to act upon. This can be the most important step, because it brings motion and action to the process. It is the feet of the execution. What good is a plan that has no follow-through? Resources, time and money have been wasted if the leader gets to this stage and fails to take action.
Fifth is to “Reward the Doers”. The business, and subsequently its leader, have been said to be only as effective as the weakest member of the team. On the other foot, there will be those who are willing to exceed expectations, and have the ability to do so. As is mentioned in the book, respect and reward are earned values; and those who have earned that respect should be rewarded and promoted. In keeping with our full body illustration, think of these as the hands. They are not only the laboring portions of the body which put to action the goals of the business, but they are also the means by which they grasp the pay check.
In the sixth building block, the leader must seek to continue to “Expand People’s Capabilities”. This requires the leader’s ability to coach those people whom they lead in a way that promotes their growth and feeds their talents. This can be done by simply asking questions and returning constructive feedback (Duden, 2011). The leader must be mindful that they have the responsibility to assist those they lead. Achieving what they have the capability and willingness of becoming, should be a priority for the leader. This can be likened to the muscular structure of the body (Derue, 2011). The more we exercise it and strengthen it, the harder it will work for us. It is important to remember the 80-20 rule. Eighty percent of what we learn is not based upon what we are instructed in, but rather by the examples that we see in action (Sitkin, 2011).
Finally, the leader must bind all these blocks together. “Knowing Yourself” and knowing your business, or in this illustration, your body, will enable the leader to have the strength of character to deal with the unpleasant issues and conflicts that may arise. They will be able to follow though in a way that will build a foundation whereby the building blocks of execution can flourish (Sitkin, 2011).
These leadership principles are not new. Defined as the two dimensions of: effectiveness and efficiency (Barnard, 1938), goals achievements and group maintenance (Cartwright and Zander, 1960), instrumental and expressive needs (Etzioni, 1961) or system oriented or person oriented behaviors (Stogdill, 1963), they all encompass both a human and organizational aspect. These same dimensions were later redefined into theories of human and organizational behaviors such as traits, skills, style, and situational adaptation (Northouse, 2004). Although called by different names and theories over the past 100 years, these leadership qualities all have the same organization and individual principles (De Vries, 2010). It is however, the leader’s execution of these principles, theories and behaviors that defines the outcome.