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Is Leadership Just About Leading People?

Each week on our radio show, The American Entrepreneur, we talk a great deal about leadership. Recently, I got into a discussion on this subject with a leader and his team from one of the organizations we work with. They were talking about leadership, what does it mean and what does it particularly mean to their organization. Then the conversation eventually evolved into, “Is leadership just about leading people?”

Is Leadership Just About Leading People?Leadership is definitely more than just about leading people. Not to downplay the importance of leading people, because it is hard work, whether you're leading 2, 2,000 or 20,000 folks, to get them all on the same page. What I mean is, it is a leader's job to also lead markets, to create a culture that leads innovation and to be the leader of trends. From Pittsburgh, Tom Grealish is one of the better leaders I know. He always talks about looking around the corner, trying to see trends and anticipating the market. You can research this all you want, but what leadership really comes down to is three key areas:

·       Vision

·       Alignment

·       Execution

It's really a leader's job to deeply understand what is about to happen -- reading the tea leaves and then aligning the organization to attack that market. The reality is that a leader should have his or her team overcoming what is happening now, and proactively addressing what is going to happen. If you've been in business for twenty years, this is going to sound very familiar. If you're a new entrepreneur, look this up historically and it will make great sense. Think back to the early 1990s. What was your company’s web strategy? You might chuckle now and say that back then you would have asked, “What web strategy? What is the Internet?” That is, if you even had a website back then. My guess is that if you did have a website, it was static; more or less an electronic brochure.

Here's a really interesting thought: in 1994, there were 10,000 websites. Think about that -- 10,000 websites. What happened in 1994 when a leader assembled his or her team and started to try and look around that corner and attack this thing called the Internet? The leader brings his or her team together, and every team member has about the same amount of experience as the leader does. In other words, no one had any experience at that point in time with the Internet! Now, this “brain trust” is together, and they are asking each other, “How do we look around the corner? How do we pro-act to what's about to happen?” You can imagine what was talked about, “This thing (the Internet) will never last. This is a waste of time. This is a waste of money…” Then, finally someone has the courage to put his or her hand up and say, "Oh hey, by the way, Boss, what is the Internet?"

If you go back less than 20 years ago, this major sea change happened, and we really looked at it as a replacement for what we already knew. It was an electronic brochure. How about those folks that refused to look at it that way? What about the ones who saw something completely different and really did look around the corner? (I am not talking about the dot-com bubble folks who weren’t following business fundamentals. You know no business is worth a billion dollars that doesn’t have any revenue.) I'm talking about those folks who built a business on fundamentals -- those who took and applied foundational business practices to look around the corner. How did they do?

When it comes to looking around the corner, a key fundamental for leaders to focus on is acquiring strong talent for their organizations. We will discuss this important leadership topic further in my next post titled, “Four Key Components of Talent Acquisition.”

Interested in learning more from Buddy? You can learn more by taking a look at the many free resources available from the Ex3 Matters website, including Buddy's free eBook, "Experience Matters," which you can download here.