Leading Blog






03.21.11

What's Holding You Back? A Call for Gutsy Leadership

Leadership
Robert Herbold, former COO of Microsoft, says that lack of courage is what destroys companies. In example after example, what is holding companies back is consistent, courageous leadership. In What’s Holding You Back? he writes that we need gutsy leaders that “make sure that their organization has a simple, understandable, clear game plan for the future,” a culture that is “curious, even paranoid about the future, to keep people always looking for new ways to help the company grow and prosper,” they “make sure decision making is crisp and accountability is clear.”
Management that doesn’t confront problems and make the necessary tough decisions to change, typically ends up with a culture focused on pride in the past and the protection of old procedures.
I think we are seeing too much of this core issue and what we end up with is operational complexity and lack of innovation and forward momentum. Herbold says that this is usually due to one or more of the following reasons:

Avoid conflict
Strive for certainty
Avoid a career risk
Lack of self-confidence
Lack of a sense of urgency
Protect their turf

Herbold details ten principles that you should review regularly to help you provide gutsy, courageous leadership. The most important principle and the one underlying the rest is the first principle: Devise a Demanding Game Plan to Confront Reality. This is accomplished by putting three things in place: “a clear vision with impact, aggressive strategies to achieve that vision, and a defined way of measuring success.”

Echoing Max De Pree, Herbold writes, “The core job of a leader in any organization is to quickly and accurately assess the current situation and any vulnerabilities and opportunities the organization may have.” He adds, “The leader must then lay out a demanding game plan…and stand ready to modify that plan at any moment, given new learning.”

The process of creating aggressive strategies to achieve that vision should be “very interactive and fact driven, and it can become an engaging and exciting venture for the organization.” Finally, appropriate measure should be defined to tell everyone whether or not the vision has been achieved.

What’s Holding You Back? is valuable for reminding us of basic principles that are easily overlooked as we get caught up in the daily minutia.

Another part of defining reality that I think is significant enough to mention, is understanding our impact on those around us. It’s not uncommon to find that we hold others back because of remarks we make and as a result we lose the full potential of what they bring to the table. In a section titled, “Creativity and Six Sigma don’t Mix,” Herbold writes:
Innovation is not an orderly process. People who are good at it tend to go through many ideas before coming up with one that works. It’s also a very fragile process. A manager can stifle innovation without even knowing it through his or her unspoken communications. People who are charged with innovation are constantly observing how their management is acting and reacting. Unfortunately, they often interpret their management’s behavior and casual comments as specific instructions or constraints that need to be followed.
As we need to consistently ask, “What’s holding me back?” we also need to ask, “How am I holding others back?”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:50 PM
| Comments (0) | This post is about Leadership



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