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Enterprise leadership to drive performance

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Enterprise leadership to drive performance

Many of our clients invest in leadership development to enable and accelerate strategy execution.

Increasingly, strategy execution requires more than implementation of a plan: it demands ‘enterprise leadership’ to rise to the challenges of a complex, ambiguous and changing operating environment.

Enterprise leadership is about working across and on behalf of the enterprise – not just the business unit – and is an emerging theme in many of the conversations we have with clients about the demands on their leaders.

Some recent research into effective strategy execution highlights why enterprise leadership, as a driver of cross functional and cross business unit collaboration, is critical:

  • Execution requires alignment within units and connections beyond units
  • Execution means working on and beyond the plan
  • Communication is not enough – clarity of enterprise intent is critical
  • Performance culture and a collaborative, future oriented culture drive execution
  • Execution mind-set must be embedded at all levels of leadership to be sustainable.*

Most leaders focus on delivery of outcomes for their business unit. However; chief executive officers, shareholders and stakeholders expect the value of the whole to deliver more than the sum of its parts. I’ve compiled some recent insights on enterprise leadership that inform our thinking and conversations.

Enterprise Leaders are differentiated from individual leaders because they:

  1. use and provide contributions to peers to improve the broader enterprise
  2. not only delegate work, but ensure it has the resources and visibility needed
  3. connect rather than direct their teams to enhance performance.

Enterprise leaders create more innovative, engaged and adaptive teams, generate higher client satisfaction and improve revenue and profit growth.

Enterprise leadership improves revenue and profit growth significantly

Enterprise leadership

However, these enterprise leaders are rare – only around 12% of leaders*  – so how can we grow more of them?

Effective enterprise leadership is rare in most businesses

Enterprise leadership

For individual leaders, the growth into enterprise leadership can require something akin to a leap of faith: they may be apprehensive about a perceived loosening of control; anxious about having only incomplete information; and concerned that constructive enterprise leadership may not be noticed or rewarded.

These concerns are rational and need to be addressed to grow more enterprise leaders by:

  • increased transparency of peer and team performance and strengths. One of our clients is openly sharing data on performance against goals through a monthly forum to promote performance, collaboration and focus
  • alignment of evaluation to enterprise leadership behaviours. Some of our clients are building the ‘enterprise’ focus into their key performance indicators and leadership capability frameworks
  • shifting leaders’ mindsets about their roles. Our pace-setting clients are deploying customised, challenging leadership development that uses immersive experiences to help leaders cultivate a sense of agency: “I cannot ‘wait and see’, but can and should shape the context I work in to get the best outcome.”

The last of these insights is particularly significant for leadership development, as the same research indicates that leaders have the skills but not the mindset for enterprise leadership. Chiefly at issue is the idea that autonomy and control are crucial to success as a leader. Organisations that change their leaders’ mindsets for the current leadership environment can impact the practise of enterprise leadership by as much as 12%.*

How do you shift a mindset? It’s not about building skills so much as challenging leaders’ assumptions about their role in driving organisational performance. How do you challenge assumptions and change mindsets?

  • Turn up the heat, through challenging, immersive experiences
  • Source diverse inputs to thinking
  • Integrate the inputs and experience, for example through coaching.

These characteristics evoke ‘vertical’ (as opposed to ‘horizontal’) development – a paper on its own - and a constructive challenge to traditional leadership development that has often focused on instruction rather than immersion; learning rather than growing.

This is one of the challenges we relish the opportunity to address in partnership with our clients.

Tags: leadership, performance, strategy