Readers of this blog know that much of the content we cover is stimulated by conversations and the application of the business acumen, business leadership, and strategic business selling learning engagements we conduct for our clients on a global basis.
Last week, in the midst of an intense business leadership training program, a participant wanted to share how the development of business leadership acumen through simulation will help him develop his “leadership point of view” in an entirely different way. When I asked him to explain further, he shared that he has been trained that all good business leaders have a “leadership point of view” and that direct reports follow and execute based on the leadership perspective. His peers and I were intrigued by his comments. He shared in public that as a result of our training, he recognized that some of his past and current leadership points of view were perhaps not as effective as he once thought because he didn’t have the right tools and skills to develop his optimal leadership point of view. Basically, this very confident and honest leader shared that if you are going to have a leadership point of view, you really better have the right point of view!
That got me thinking…
If leaders are going to have a leadership point of view, how do we make sure that it’s the right point of view? Are there tools and/or guidelines to having a more effective and impactful point of view? I started doing some research of the current literature, spoke with past participants, and touched base with other industry experts on this topic. The results are included in the rest of this blog.
The Leadership Point of View Body of Work
I will share that up until this participant’s comment, I was unfamiliar with the body of work surrounding “the Leadership Point of View.” In doing a quick search, it looks like the original mainstream concepts around the Leadership Point of View came from the work of highly respected training industry guru Steven Covey
To quickly summarize, Covey proposes that a Leadership Point of View (LPoV) is a credo that encompasses not just one’s vision for the work, but a leader’s attitudes and beliefs about leadership. It expresses what is most important to you as a leader. It also outlines what you expect of yourself, what you expect of others as a leader, and what they could expect from you. Sharing your LPoV with new coaches sets an example and encourages direct reports to think and execute their LPoV on their own.
I asked the participant if he would share his Leadership Points of View and he gladly pulled out a laminated document from his briefcase. He then shared his five key leadership points of view that he uses with his teams and in general as his guiding principles:
- Make fact-based decisions
- Communicate expectations
- Challenge people to think
- Set an environment for accountability
- Measure and reward
He explained each one of his Leadership Points of View in detail and provided examples of how he has used them in the past. As he shared his list, I was struck with an uneasy feeling; even though he seemed enlightened and sincere, I kept thinking that without the right business acumen skills these five key leadership points of view could set him up for mistakes and misalignments.
The reason for my uneasiness was that it didn’t seem like this participant had strong skills in strategic thinking and financial management analysis and planning (which we were working on in the session). In the first round of the simulation, he struggled getting his arms around different types of strategies. To get more granular, this participant was a senior manager in the supply chain management organization of his company. He is responsible for securing certain raw materials for use in manufacturing and leads a team of 12 associates. In talking about the strategy of his real-world employer – Product Leadership and Innovation – he didn’t realize that his department’s laser focus on just going after the lowest cost raw materials and tough negotiation with suppliers was potentially causing significant quality problems and a potential inability for the organization to actually implement its value proposition to customers.
In essence, he started to realize that he was making fact based decisions, communicating expectations, challenging his team to think, holding people accountable, and measuring his team in support of the wrong business strategy!
Furthermore, when we started talking about other points of view from a leadership perspective, he started to think about the way he was leading by example working with vendors. He admitted to me during our discussion that he has a built-in predisposition to not trust vendors. He shared that he had been burned several times by vendors making promises about delivery times, quality of product, and support only for them to under deliver. As a result, he would treat every vendor as if they had already done something wrong and was very aggressive in the way that he talked with them and worked with them. He was proud that he had taken this leadership point of view and was teaching his team to be just like him.
The problem – as he sees it now – is that he is teaching his team the wrong behaviors. Instead of finding quality vendors who deliver on time at reasonable, competitive, and fairly negotiated prices, he was just inviting trouble and poor performance by taking the wrong leadership point of view.
So, what is the answer? We believe that leaders should have a strong point of view and it should be the right point of view. In order to get there, effective leaders must have strong skills in the areas of business acumen and business leadership. By having strong business acumen skills, leaders are best able to understand their full business ecosystem, their competitors, and most importantly their customers. Once they do that, they are able to use their skills to make the best decisions and to create alignment around their positions and points of view.