6 Principles to Effective, Systemic Leadership 🧠

Modern growth organizations are fueled by their people and the ecosystems (communities) they interact with. Results are not just an outcome of efficient supply chains and well designed management structures, but rather an effect of individual experts driven by a common purpose, and a meaning to their work 👩‍💻 The new generation of professionals are not just employees working for a salary. Instead, they are individuals seeking a place from where they can make the World a better place 🌎

Within this frame of reference, what is the most effective leadership model to drive modern organizations forward?

Recently I came across Danniel F. Pinnow’s work on Systemic Leadership 📚 A work that is based on the best advice from Peter F. Drucker, with a forwad-thinking adaptation that takes into account modern organizations and how individuals want to do their job and be treated at work. Based on Pinnow’s work and my own experience, I’ve put together six core principles to truly effective leadership 👇

1 Focus on Results 🎯

Above and beyond all leadership models, there’s one common thing to all of them: you want to get your team to achieve goals and make the organization move forward. Thus, the most important thing a great leader has to concentrate on, is getting results.

The way to keep people most engaged, motivated and aligned at the operational level is the pursue for results 👉 Results are the outcome of achieving goals. Therefore, goals must show the direction towards the overarching vision of a business, giving context and purpose for the employees 🚀

When leaders drive the organization’s efforts towards results, they’re helping their people to drift away from unnecessary clutter that doesn’t add up to the business. In fact, over 80% of a leader’s time should be spent on goal framing, planning and coaching people to pursue the goals 📈 For this, you will need three things:

  1. a KPI framework: how to set, follow up on and adjust the correct strategic goals and their key performance indicators.
  2. a coaching leadership culture: communicate the big vision often, listen to people and support them through their journey towards results.
  3. achievement and steering: understand when goals are achieved and what comes next. But most importantly, understand when goals need to be adjusted, in order to steer the business into the right direction.

2 Contribution to the Organization 📈

In today’s organizations, it’s crucial to make super clear what’s the contribution of each individual to the entire business; from the CEO down to every specialist 👩‍💻 Today’s professionals are seeking for meaning and the sense of belonging, and how they are part of something bigger in changing the World. Contribution is the link between every individual’s job and the company’s overarching mission.

It is up to the organization how to show and communicate to every individual what’s their contribution to the business. Different people in different roles will contribute in different ways, yet not every individual might envision how their role helps the entire organization spin in the right direction.

The leader’s job is to constantly facilitate and communicate individual contribution to the business as a whole 🚀 Communicating individuals’ contribution must be strictly tied to the organization’s growth strategy. In other words, it is fundamental to show everyone’s contribution through results tied to KPIs, which are directly linked to the top management’s strategic goals 📈 This is how all individuals, at any level and in any role, can truly see by themselves how they directly impact the business with their expertise.

On the practical level, the best way to make individuals see how their work aligns with the overall business is through a well designed KPI framework 📊 For example, OKRs tie high-level strategy with execution and intermediate goals. This creates a continuum between the execution at the individual level, all the way up to the overarching strategy and mission of the entire organization 📈

3 Quality before Quantity 💎

Effective leadership is only possible by focusing on a really small number of carefully selected goals or opportunities. When doing the strategy work, it is common to raise many different opportunities and objectives to be achieved during the coming fiscal year. This tells that leaders are ambitious and passionate about what they do. However, when everything becomes a priority, nothing is a priority 📉

High quality leadership and strategic planning boil down to carefully choosing what to do next, and what not to do 🎯 “Leadership by objectives” does not lead to success if there are too many goals and too many leaders.

In order to increase the quality of strategic leadership, goals should be always prioritized in descending order, from most important to least important 📊 Hence, when time or resources run out, the leader has ensured that the most important things have been accomplished first; and there is no compromise in quality 💎 Therefore, remember to prioritize goals and pursue them in order.

4 Unleash People Strengths 💪

Due to the nature of modern organizations, where people are the most valuable asset, leaders must ensure individuals develop their full potential within the organization, thus adding more thrust to the execution 🚀

Unfortunately, most leaders typically focus on finding employees’ weaknesses and turning them down (i.e., changing employees’ personalities), rather than focusing on amplifying their strengths. This is just an anthropological design in us, people, so that our 🧠 can protect us from any “disaster”. Overcoming this requires two things:

  1. remember this is a brain design that helped us in the Palaeolithic, not in today’s environments
  2. work actively on identifying peoples’ strengths and the organization’s gaps, and see how those strengths could fill the gaps for the organization to grow 💪

That is, leaders need to thrive for identifying the potential strengths in the individuals, and amplifying them by matching the organizational growth needs 📈 This can be achieved by consistently evaluating employees’ strengths and supporting the individuals to develop in the strengths and areas that will help the organization the most. In order words:

Put the right people in the right place, and the magic will happen.

When leaders are able to plug people’s strengths into the right “gaps” in the organization, they create a positive feedback loop ♻️ where the organization grows by developing its people, and people grow by supporting the organization.

5 Build the Trust ❤️

Leading an organization by “hands-on management” has been proven to be both expensive and inefficient 📉 How about starting from the assumption that the people hired are the best experts in their field? Steve Jobs used to say:

“A people hire A+ people”

So instead of hiring people and telling them what to do; why not hire smarter individuals and trust they’ll take you to the right direction? 🧭 Since today’s organizations are built by a network of individuals who are true experts in their field, leadership should focus on building the support network for them to develop the organization. The most fundamental tool for this is TRUST 👉 by entrusting the individuals, we’re letting them take ownership in growing the organization.

Some practical examples of great leadership that relies on trust are:

  • leaders take the team’s errors as their own responsibility
  • leaders share the credit with the actual doers and makers
  • leaders work with the assumption that every individual is doing their best
  • transparency and open communication are the main avenue for cooperation
  • sharing goals, strategy plans and open feedback with others
  • no hidden agendas for anyone, come as you are

Inevitably, when something goes sideways, trust is questioned. However, instead of looking for the one to blame, a great leader consciously sticks to the strategic framework:

  1. are the KPIs wrong? Are we measuring the right thing then?
  2. are the resources right?
  3. are the tactics the correct ones?
  4. is the strategy the appropriate one?
  5. did we set a realistic goal in the first place?

Surely there can be misshires and underperforming cases. But nevertheless, it often (~99% of the times) comes down to goal-setting, strategy and execution; rather than professoinals not wanting to do a good job. So trust your people! ❤️

6 Stay Positive-Proactive 🚀

The last fundamental principle is proactiveness. Although many leaders find it difficult to forecast what’s yet to come in order to be proactive, there’s a much simpler formula: stay positive 👍 Let me explain ..

We all have, by instinct, a tendency to look for problems and challenges, and how to fix them. Once again, our 🧠 is trying to protect us from whatever could happen. While this is great for survival, it doesn’t make a company stay ahead of the curve, because leadership becomes reactive and more of a bottleneck seek-and-remover, rather than a proactive entity looking into new possibilities and opportunities.

Challenges should always be tackled in a proactive manner, so that they are prevented, rather than fixed. In other words, good leaders recognize the signs of trouble and assist before real problems develop, and have a plan of action ready for any eventuality. A positive attitude, together with a plan of action, can lead to new successes 🏆

Remember this 👉 Great employees strive for continuing to be successful in the organization; they do not wait for someone else to motivate them or pull them out of the trenches. The principle of positive thinking leads individuals to give their best in any situation ✌🏼 and that will always make the organization grow in the right direction.

Conclusions

There is way too much information about what good leadership is. So much that most leaders won’t read it nor remember it 📚 Today’s organizations and individual experts are driven by the sense of purpose, i.e., by their mission. In order for leaders to deliver value to modern organizations, here’re six fundamental principles:

  • focus on results 🎯
  • all you do should contribute to the organization 📈
  • quality over quantity — do less, do it better 💎
  • unleash people strengths, don’t focus on weaknesses 💪
  • entrust your people, they will take you to new dimensions ❤️
  • stay positive, be proactive 🚀

References

Leadership — What Really Matters. A Handbook on Systemic Leadership. Daniel F. Pinnow, 2011.

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Claudio M. Camacho

A family guy in the tech business 👨🏻‍💻 Executive Director | Strategic Marketing Management ➡️ www.claudiocamacho.com