Since Michael Porter’s groundbreaking work in the 1980s, we’ve gotten really good at developing strategy—but we’re not nearly as good at executing it. Studies show that up to three-quarters of organizations struggle to implement their strategies. When global CEOs are surveyed about their biggest concerns, execution tops the list—ahead of innovation, geopolitical instability, and top-line growth.
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(This article is part of a series The Top 7 Challenges Facing Leaders Today)
The fourth biggest challenge facing a leader would be that they lack the skills to lead from a place of influence rather than authority. All leaders share the same sources of power, some of which are derived from authority, reward, or discipline, and others which come from expertise, goodwill, and information sharing. What leaders need to learn is how, when, and where to apply each of these for the desired outcome. What we need to understand and learn is that we can use our authority, our positional power like title, or our powers of influence.
If you only use your authority--your position as boss, or VP, or director--you’re only going to get compliance. For example, if you tell somebody “go do this, I asked you to get this done, just do it because I’m the boss,” they may do it, but they certainly won’t do it gladly and they’ll do it only up to the point of what you instructed them to do. You’ll be a manager who ends up micro-managing task lists with employees making sure the minimum gets done—you’ll become terribly inefficient and feel overloaded without ever making any real progress. This approach makes the employee feel like you think they don’t know how to do their job. Over time, if you only use your authority, reward, or discipline, one of two things happens:
If you use your powers of influence, which come from relationships and knowledge, people will do their tasks to the best of their ability. In this scenario, rather than micro-managing a task-list, you might say:
With this approach, you’re going to get a much greater degree of commitment rather than just compliance. From here, you begin to see a much greater degree of problem-solving, you start to see innovation, you see your team reaching across the organization to get the help they need, and you also see more creativity as a result—all things that help turn your human capital into competitive edge.
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Lynda Silsbee is Founder and President of the Alliance for Leadership Acceleration. She has spent more than 30 years creating and leading high performance teams. Along with the other LEAP Certified Coaches, she reports that helping managers make the LEAP to leader is one of the most fulfilling aspects of her work.