This is how we find the exponential stretch depicted in the Courageous Leadership Model and unleash the potential of every person working in the business.Expressing high performance leadership consistently everyday is essential for any leader serious about developing, maintaining and retaining high performing:

  • Individuals
  • Teams
  • Business units
  • Whole of business cultures.

Such high performance leadership is expressed in:

The way you think

A certain situation can be presented to a cross section of leaders, and after applying their thinking they can each choose a different response. Building confidence and developing conviction in leadership mastery is about bringing a level of consciousness to this automatic process so the high performance option is consciously chosen.

How you act – the behaviours you choose

It is increasingly obvious that many business people believe they must develop a leadership persona – and with this many leaders fail to bring their real selves to the business. Far too many leaders create expectations of how they should act.

Leaders are constantly presented with situations and need to choose specific behavioural responses. Given the urgency at which these responses are demanded they often “react” on automatic pilot – known as reflexive thinking. Meaning they often fail to consider the “smorgasbord of behaviours” available – and most importantly fail to consider the impact their reactive choice had on others. Significantly they are not considering what impact they may have created had they invested reflective thinking and chosen a different behaviour from the smorgasbord!

What you say

Every conversation a leader has indicates what is important to them and informs the culture. While developing and refining leadership mastery it is critical to spend reflective thinking time to review what has been said to people and whether it rests comfortably with the conversations that are associated with high performance leadership.

When you act

The time it takes you to act is highly indicative of what is important to you. It is strongly argued, what you say is inconsequential compared to when and how you act. How long it takes to:

  • address conflict
  • make time for the person trying desperately to speak with you
  • summon up the courage to provide tough feedback

These things indicate to others, with far greater impact than the words that leave your mouth, of what is important to you and the emphasis you are willing to invest in high performance leadership.

Your beliefs

To be passionate, have congruence, unleash your courage and be authentic you need to engage your heart by knowing your values and living them each day. These are your “beliefs” as a person! Commit the time to knowing your beliefs and it makes it much easier to take action with confidence, conviction, and courage and ultimately create authenticity while investing in high performance leadership.

As mentioned in our previous blog on Creating a High Performance Culture, it is critical for all leaders to buy into this view because it is their decisions, conversations and behaviours that dictate the culture. They make decisions and engage in conversations about the:

  • Organisational structure
  • Business systems
  • Technology
  • People hired and retained within the business.

To appreciate and acknowledge the role high performance leadership plays within your business and within each team in the business we invite you to explore THREE critical issues worthy of your consideration and identified in this blog:

  • Appreciate the importance of investing in all four facets of leadership mastery
  • Acknowledge the changing business landscape and its impact on leadership
  • What really enables high performance leadership?

Appreciate the importance of investing in all four facets of leadership mastery

High performance leadership requires business people to build confidence, conviction and courage in their leadership mastery. There are four facets of leadership mastery and it is critical to appreciate three of these have a significantly stronger impact on developing capability in high performance leadership. These three facets determine personal capability for high performance leadership:

These three facets determine personal capability for high performance leadership:

  1. Self mastery brings personal success to leaders as they are encouraged to be authentic, courageous, congruent and passionate.
  2. Relationship mastery creates professional success as leaders recognise the importance of being trusted, engaging and inspiring by all critical stakeholders to the business.
  3. Business mastery is essential for financial and moral success and so leaders learn how to become insightful, practical, resourceful and decisive business people.

Interestingly the leadership mastery facet most responsible for the transition into a leadership role is that of technical mastery. Most leaders spend significant time developing technical mastery in their careers and yet it becomes less essential to success and sustainable performance as they transition into a “whole of business” leadership role (one of our clients regularly rotates people around to lead business units outside of their technical expertise to demonstrate how crucial their other leadership mastery facets are):

Technical mastery allows you to be intellectually stimulating, competent and ethical and is the solid foundation of expertise built by leaders that earns them a strong professional reputation.

The importance of appreciating the value of these different facets of leadership mastery is for leaders to consciously invest time and energy to develop each of them to the level required within the business for high performance leadership. Confidence, conviction and courage in each facet of leadership mastery has a direct impact on the creation of a high performance culture as explained in the previous blog.

Just as elite sports people are encouraged to practise and learn to attain and then retain an elite level of performance, so should elite business people. We want elite business people to be skilled and confident in their use of high performance leadership. Yet in our experience people are not allocating the time, energy or bringing the discipline to consciously developing this kind of capability. They are far too busy reacting to what is thrown at them operationally each day they walk into the business.

Acknowledge the changing business landscape and its impact on leadership

High performance leadership is transitioning with the changing business landscape – historical performance and achievements are not going to work as we experience the VUCA environment – a business environment defined by:

VOLATILITY: where leaders and businesses are increasingly experiencing unexpected and sudden challenges/changes and sometimes of unknown duration. An example is that Australia has had 6 prime ministers in the past 5 years and in the 32 year period before this they had only 4!

UNCERTAINTY: an event or issue arises and despite availability of some information its basic cause and effect are unknown with change being possible but not necessarily given. It makes predictions about the future very challenging. An example was the ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014/15 and the uncertain about whether it would spread to other continents and create a global pandemic.

COMPLEXITY: situations and issues with many integrated, interdependent parts with difficulty in understanding how they connect and align. As technology-driven interconnections between markets, economies and populations continues to increase so do the levels of complexity. An unforgettable example is that of the US subprime mortgage crisis and the resultant GFC.

AMBIGUITY: situations and events that have multiple meanings and with relationships that lack clarity and can have no precedents. An example is the continued strong push to reduce carbon emissions – the ambiguity means we wonder if the world’s economies will ever take this seriously and recognise the espoused catastrophic global warming that has no precedents?

Historically leaders experienced:

  • Stability rather than volatility
  • Certainty rather than uncertainty
  • Simplicity instead of complexity
  • Clarity instead of ambiguity.

Therefore with this kind of changing environment here are 5 critical imperatives for the kind of change necessary if we want high performance leadership to continue to be effective:

  1. Leaders must continually challenge the status quo and step out of their comfort zones – of how things have been done in the past and what they have known as they have come through the organizational ranks of leadership
  2. Learning, change and emotional agility are vital for leaders within this VUCA business environment
  3. Agile decision making where egos are subordinated – it is no longer viable to make a decision and then stand by it to make it work – you need to seek new data and check in on the decision continuously
  4. Budgeting is going to have to change dramatically and accountability to predictions in an environment that is changing with such speed
  5. Learn to slow down to speed up – take time to think reflectively before deciding how to react – and this is a huge change from our current way of leading – we need higher order thinking to navigate our way through the speed. Agility does not mean fast!

What really enables high performance leadership?

Using the work of people like Jim Collins (Good to Great), Seth Godin (Purple Cow), Patrick Hollingworth (The Light and Fast Organisation) and working with many varied clients who are experiencing VUCA every day – like The Iconic, Uber, Specsavers, Pandora, APP, WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff we believe these are the 10 critical enablers of high performance leadership:

  1. Deep personal humility where leaders subjugate their egos and have enormous ambition for the company, not themselves and their position
  2. Personal discipline (and self mastery) to think reflectively in order to capture learning and insights
  3. Commitment to engage in real, courageous and actionable conversations where people are treated as human beings who turn up everyday to give of their best
  4. Desire to continuously develop emotional and change agility which is going to mean showing up and BEING vulnerable
  5. Commitment to consistency within themselves and within the Executive Leadership Team – “as a leader if humility is beneath you, then leadership is beyond you” a famous line from one of the Hakas chanted by the All Blacks. The team is bigger than one person wanting to do it their way
  6. Being accountable and being prepared to hold others to account too – the avoidance culture existing in Australia is not going to serve us well into the future
  7. Show up and BE human and at its very core is kindness
  8. Develop personal habits to live in a VUCA environment – where you cannot know all the answers, you cannot predict and use past experience as the best orientation for the way you lead
  9. Stop judging – find a pause button and stop to ask questions and gather insights. Judging is an inherent trait we developed to protect us in the wild and while it served to protect us from animals it does not serve us well when working with human beings where we then have the propensity to think the worst rather than the best
  10. Learn to “fail fast” and enable and empower forward movement rather than seeking to blame and finger point.

This is how we find the exponential stretch depicted in the Courageous Leadership Model and unleash the potential of every person working in the business. People are uniting and offering the opportunity to see and feel what it is like to work in a business environment where we can trust, we can say what we really want to say, we can make the decisions we know need to be made for us to do the right thing, at the right time, with the right intent, we can innovate and we can truly collaborate.

Most of us have not experienced this kind of freedom and who knows what we could unleash as an individual and for the business. No more protecting, no more political game playing, no more controlling, no more holding back on what you really think – how inspiring would it be to experience high performance leadership?