Tuesday, 29 November 2011

High Impact Leadership


Click HERE to download the article, including an outline for a unique workshop on how to develop High Impact Leaders in your organisation.


A leader is best when people barely know he exists. When his work is done, his aim fulfilled they will say; we did it ourselves - Lao Tzu (570 to 490 BC)

The very words “High Impact Leader” probably cause us to think of some of the exceptional or “visionary” leaders who control the world’s largest and most successful organisations and who feature regularly in the media. Celebrity “Rock n Roll” leaders, who cast a shadow much larger than the organisations they’re responsible for. We probably think of people like Steve Jobs, Richard Branson and Bill Gates, perhaps Alan Sugar, Jack Welsh and Anita Roddick. And who could argue with any of those illustrious individuals being described as “High Impact Leaders”. In each case, their influence has extended well outside their own business ventures, touching lives through their courage, humanitarian endeavours, thought leadership, innovation and the sheer scale of their success.

Perhaps we might also think of great military or political leaders such as George S Patton, Napoleon or Winston Churchill. Or perhaps we think of those people who have led cultural revolutions such as Nelson Mandela or Gandhi. It would be equally hard to dispute that any of them have a place on the list of High Impact Leaders.

But High Impact Leaders exist in every organisation, at every level, in every function and department and there are more of them than you might think. They are the people who always seem to make things happen, who others hold in high regard, and whose influence extends beyond the people they work with directly. They’re not necessarily managers or in formal positions of authority and they’re not necessarily “visionary”.

High Impact Leaders are authentic to their values and highly self-aware. They are completely comfortable taking personal responsibility and accountability, but also secure and confident enough to delegate effectively, letting go and placing their trust in others. They have a unique blend of attributes which inspire people, not just to accede to their authority and comply with their instructions, but to follow them, do their best for them and aspire to be like them. They create environments where every individual can deliver their very best, they encourage true collaboration and teamwork, stimulate creativity and make the impossible possible.

The environment we operate in is becoming increasingly tough; managers and leaders face organisational and market challenges on a huge scale. Simply remaining in business requires a higher than ever degree of agility and responsiveness both from organisations and the people who work in them. This represents the fundamental challenge for leaders in the early part of the 21st century. But while a great deal of time and resources are expended on training managers’ functional and technical capabilities, very little time is spent on developing the skills that will help them to become authentic leaders.

So what are the attributes of High Impact Leadership?

Firstly, High Impact Leaders possess a high degree of self-awareness; they understand their strengths and weaknesses. They’re able to work with people to create collaborative environments where everyone can be successful. This comes from emotional intelligence. Consistently, research has demonstrated that up to 95% of the difference between exceptional leaders and average leaders is based on emotional competencies rather than intellect, technical knowledge or functional expertise.

High Impact Leaders understand what makes people “tick”; why people are different from each other and why they behave the way they do in different circumstances. This understanding of what drives behaviour also helps them to form strong relationships which are key to getting the best out of each individual and for creating effective teams.  It also helps ensure that they are able to find the best way of inspiring and motivating people in order to consistently achieve successful outcomes.

High Impact Leaders inspire trust. Research suggests that things happen up to 60% faster in high trust environments but a recent study conducted by the Institute of Leadership and Management suggests that trust in leaders has suffered significantly during the economic downturn. Whilst there are signs of a slow recovery, much still needs to be done to restore trust both within organisations and in the wider markets in which they operate. Only by building trust at an individual and relationship level, can trust be restored at a market level.

High Impact Leaders understand how to motivate and set goals that balance a focus on strategic and operational imperatives with the need for creativity and innovation. Some of the greatest discoveries in the past fifty years have come about almost by accident; creating an environment where creativity flourishes is no easy task, particularly when economic and competitive circumstances encourage an aversion to risk.  Traditional task based objectives rely on a “carrot and stick” approach usually linking the achievement of pre-defined targets to financial rewards. This stifles innovation, often drives the wrong behaviours and generally ignores the fact that people are most motivated by having a sense of self-control and from working towards a purpose in which they believe. High Impact Leaders use effective feedback to develop strong relationships and trust, showing humility themselves by constantly seeking feedback from others.

Finally, High Impact Leaders have a sphere of influence that extends well beyond their own area of responsibility. They achieve sustainable results through gaining commitment rather than compliance, drawing on the full range of their leadership ability to deliver positive outcomes. The “shadow” they cast as leaders and the impact they have depends not only on their authority and legitimate sources of power, but on their intrinsic understanding of the environment they’re operating in, the often diverse cultural dimensions and the people involved.

Now more than ever organisations need High Impact Leaders. Fortunately, whilst only a very few people might naturally possess the qualities of authentic leadership, the skills and attributes of High Impact Leadership can be learned and developed in everyone.

Chris Burton, 2011
This material is now available as a workshop which can be run in any organisation to develop High Impact Leaders. 
Drawing on extensive research brought to life through examples and case studies the interactive workshop uses feedback from colleagues to help participants understand their strengths and areas for development. The workshop is complemented by a comprehensive workbook providing background material, models and tools which enable managers and leaders at all levels of the organisation to develop the attributes of High Impact Leadership and to carry it back into the workplace. 

Click HERE to download an outline of the workshop.

Click HERE to email me for more information.