22nd December 2020
Leadership Has a Price
“If you don’t get what you want, it’s a sign either that you did not seriously want it, or that you tried to bargain over the price.” Rudyard Kipling
Do you want your organisation to be regarded as a leader? And if so, what does leadership mean for your organisation? Is it:
- Becoming the market leader for your goods or services, or;
- Having a customer experience that is second to none, or;
- Growing and creating value for your stakeholders, or;
- Being known for a culture of innovation and performance, or;
- Regard for a culture that engages and develops people and careers, or;
- Being the place the best people want to work or;
- Some combination of the above.
Before you say yes (because saying no doesn’t sound right), keep in mind whatever form your leadership ambition takes, leadership has a price. And we are not just talking dollars and cents here.
The price will also take the form of things you have to give up, comfortable habits you need to change, the discomfort of courageous conversations, and the pain that will have to be endured by the organisation on the way to achieving a leadership position.
If you want to lead, the first step is to decide where you want to lead. The second is to establish the gap between current and expected performance. The third step is do something about it.
In other words, What? So what? Now what?
We know an organisation has baulked at the fact that leadership has a price when we hear them describe challenges like:
- We are not beating the market and/or the competition.
- We are sub-par in a key area of value creation (such as product offering, customer engagement, or operating efficiency).
- We move too slowly, we work in silos, people won’t take responsibility, we take too long to make things happen, our competitors always beat us to market.
- We are losing high performers and people in critical roles faster than our average rate of turnover.
- We have no plan to hire or develop the capabilities we will need in five years’ time.
- We don’t know if our people perform better or are more capable than our competitor’s people.
- We recruit from outside of the organisation for more than 20% of our senior roles.
- We spend more on recruitment than we do on developing the capability of our current employees.
- We don’t make direct appointments from a succession plan because we’re not sure our ‘Ready Now’ talent is in fact ready now.
The first step is to decide which aspect of leadership will give you the greatest return.
Once you’ve identified the area(s) you want to be a leader in, the second step is to establish the gap between where you are and where you want to be and, decide what to do. Leadership means you are going to have to do something for the first time or do something completely differently to the way you’ve done them before. Pretty soon it will dawn on you that leadership has a price.
For things that are new or different, leadership has a price be it in the form of investments in time (which no one has), or money (which is all being used in BAU stuff) or, the uncomfortable activity of letting go of processes, behaviours and people that worked in the past but aren’t part of the future.
If you want to lead you must act, do more and do better than your competitors and accept the fact that leadership has a price. Most organisations baulk at the price.
“Rarely have I seen a situation where doing less than the other guy is a good strategy.” Jimmy Spithill
The third step in accepting that leadership has a price is to carefully map out the investments, costs, sacrifices and pain points of achieving that leadership position and ensure everyone is on board for the journey ahead. And then check again.
“If you want to be successful, find out what the price is and then pay it.” Scott Adams
Where does your organisation lead? What are the opportunities to lead? In how many areas do you just ‘go with the flow’?