Measuring Leadership

Circle of Impact
There are no real measures of leadership.

Well, they are, but what we use are not real measures.

What we typically measure is management, not leadership.

The management of people, products and processes. 

That is different than leadership.

Management numbers may ... may ... have a relationship to leadership. But it needs to be defined.

So, if you are going to measure leadership then you need to define what it is, and define it in such a way that you can measure it.


Defining Leadership

Here's how I define leadership.

Leaders take initiative to create impact.

Each word is intentional.


    Leaders start, engage, facilitate, act, do and take the first step.


    Leaders generate processes, products, systems, relationships, openness, cultures, opportunities, or the next ones, and they adapt, form, and bring into existence what is new, needed and necessary.


    Leaders make a difference that matters by creating change.


By this definition any person can function as a leader. What does this mean for those people who are in executive and supervisory roles in traditional vertically integrated hierarchical organizational structures?

It is simple.

Executive leaders initiate the creative processes which produce leaders who initiate to create impact.

This means that executive leaders are measured by the leadership of those for whom they are responsible. This is quite similar to what we have thought of as management, but there is a difference.

The difference is that the management of efficiency, predictability and consistency requires control those who work for them. The reality is that this is a fading reality. Businesses are rapidly changing, by necessity, and our understanding of leadership needs to catch up.

The Three Dimensions of Leadership

Now if everyone simply initiated change in a random manner, then greater chaos would ensue.

Therefore, an integral part of executive leadership is coordinating the leadership of others. Executives do so through three principal areas: Ideas, Relationships and the context which each person has through the social and organizational structures of their work.

In other words, leaders facilitate clarity around the Connecting Ideas of Purpose, Values, Vision and Impact. They facilitate the communication and coordination of the actions that follow the organization's purpose. 

Executive leaders build a culture of shared leadership through the shared responsibility for the organization's defined purpose, values and its vision for impact.

As a result, leadership spreads out through the company. We can see a better connection between the company's purpose and the means to achieve its bottom line. Better communication, and a greater sense of community between the people in the company, fosters a culture that adapts more quickly to the opportunities and obstacles that present themselves every day.

Measuring Leadership

So, how do we measure leadership.

First, we define the change we want by defining the purpose of the impact that we seek.

We track change. We track the changes that we see in how the Connecting Ideas are being use. We track change in how people communicate and work together. And we track changes in processes as they adapt to new circumstances.

Second, we identify and track employee initiative.

We track the connection between communication and issue resolution. If people are taking initiative to resolve issues at their own point of responsibility, then you are seeing the spread of leadership in the company.

Third, we track the speed of change.

How fast does it take for an idea to be enacted? The key to this returns to the Connecting Ideas. These ideas provide a context of understanding that can guide the initiative leadership of people.

Ultimately, the measure of leadership is the number of leaders who have been formed and nurtured by the company, and the collective impact of their shared leadership.

By growing a leadership culture of initiative, a company can become a community of leaders whose impact is far beyond what it was when everyone was being managed to just do their job.

The Common Ground of Shared Responsibility

Creating an effective business structure is a very difficult proposition. I am not talking about a business or marketing plan. I referring to how a business is structured so that it functions well. 3Cs of Alignment - image

As you know, I look at this challenge through the lens of the Circle of Impact. My sense is that we need to foster alignment between the three dimensions of leadership - Ideas, Relationships and Structure. We do this by focusing on the conditions that create effective Communication, Collaboration and Coordination.

For me this is a baseline from which all organizations need to begin. What happens beyond that is a change in the function of each of the dimensions.

Communication ceases to be a major problem; your message gets out; and work related issues seemed to be less intractable.

Collaboration grows, new ideas emerge from the improvement of relationships, and the organization needs to change to accomodate a higher level of engagement and initiative by people.

Coordination, though, lags in improvement across departments, remote sites, and programs. The reason is that the system of organizaiton is always the last to change. It has the highest resistance to adapting to changing circumstances.  As a result, the optimism that initially rose as communication and collaboration grew also begins to lag. 

After a few months or years, a growing impression of either being at a plateau or in Transition Pointdecline begins to be discussed openly.  Whether rightly or wrongly, the perception that the organization has reached a Transition Point begins to take hold.

In reflection, we can see that the easiest things to change, did.  New, fresh, inspiring ideas infused new confidence and motivation in people, impacting how they communicated and collaborated together. This is what is happening in many organizations.

The jump from one inspiring idea to the next ends up artificially propping up the emotional commitment of people to the company and their relationships together.This is not sustainable.

The resistance of the organization's structure to change remains the primary obstacle to a well functioning, fully aligned organization.

The distance and disconnect that employees have from the mission and outcome of the business is the most basic identifying mark of a structure out of alignment. Indifference that people have to their workplace grows.  The desire to be left alone to do their job so they can get on to what really matters in their life becomes the defacto attitude of the workforce. In effect, there is no emotional access point for them to invest their whole selves in the work they do.

When this scenario is widely experienced in a company, inspiring ideas and motivational team building programs don't have a lasting impact. The problem is a structural or systems one. Issues of communication and collaboration are symptoms of the problem. 

Assumptions about the Product of an Effective Organizational Structure

As I analyze organizations during various projects, I'm looking for various intangilbes that matter. Let's call them assumptions about what an organizational system should produce.

1.  Initiative by employees measured by higher rates of engagement and contribution. 

2. Interaction by employees that is open and collaborative and that transcends organizational barriers to achieve higher levels of efficiency and impact.

3. Impact awareness by employees who can express their own contribution to the organization's impact as a change that is a difference that matters.

These assumptions are difficult to measure, yet relatively easy to see.

Their performance is more evident when they are missing. People not taking initiative. When there is little interaction between people from different parts of the organization. When employees show little appreciation for the organization's mission and impact. 

The question that many of us then have is how to do we redesign our organizational structures so that we realize a higher level of initiative, interaction and impact.

One way to address this issue is through strategic organizational redesign to creates an environment of Shared Responsibility.

Shared Responsibility

Every organization has a responsibility or accountability structure. In older, traditional hierarchical systems, Responsibility resides in varying degrees throughout the organization, but not accountability, which is top down. Shared Responsibility
A shared responsibility structure creates a shared space of mutual, collaborative, coordinated accountability. This illustration shows an organization where management, staff and the board of directors have a common ground of shared responsibility.  The shared space is common ground because the expectation is that each person engaged in this space has an opportunity to contribute out of their own talent, knowledge and expertise within the strictures of their position and role in the organization.

For example, while some members of the management team would not ordinarily work along side of members of the Board of Directors, in this scheme they would because the structure is is organized to provide a shared space of contribution for impact. This approach lowers the organizational barriers that typically make it hard to create a common ground for work.

The purpose of this structure is not order or standardization, but alignment of the functions of communication, collaboration and coordination for the purpose of impact. It is the mission of the organization, not the structure, which drives the change in structure. RK- Org Design

This approach is currently being developed for an international non-profit organization whose constituents are in all 50 states and 20 countries globally.  The board is small in number; is highly active in collaboration with the staff; and works with a large number of advisors and supporters from around the world who contribute  according to their ability.

This organization's aim to create an environment where participation is not boring or disconnected from its mission, but is marked by personal initiative, collaborative interaction, and an organization environment each person has the opportunity to make a difference.

The way an organizational design of this sort works is when the Connecting Ideas of purpose, mission, values, vision and impact are well defined and aligned within the structure, and the leadership of the organization serves as a faciliator of interaction and contribution. Because the organizational structure is a shared space for collaboration, the barriers for constituents to lead through their talent and abilities are low, producing a more highly engagement staff and board.

This kind of structure and leadership must be intentionally designed and developed.  This is not a radical departure from the past, but at the same time, it is also not a logical step forward for most of the legacy structures that exist today.

This approach fosters a shared leadership of responsibility. Leadership from this perspetive is the impact or influence that is the result of the personal initiative take to create impact. When the senior leadership of an organization understands that this is where the future of organizations lays, it requires a change in their own leadership approach.

The Ultimate Question

Can legacy organizational structures change to this model of shared responsibility? 

I believe it can. The pathway to this approach is in appreciating the importance of the relationship dimension for the creation of the strength and impact of an organization.  From that perspective barriers to interaction and collaboration lower or are removed, enabling people to become more engaged with the purpose and mission of the organization, and to do so in relationship with other members of their organizational community.

Leadership is Personal Initiative

Misti Burmeister, at her Facebook page, asked a couple great questions about leadership. She first asked,

"Is self-knowledge essential to leading others effectively?"

She followed that question with,

"How can you lead others if you are not leading yourself ...a distinction that separates ok leaders from awesome ones..."

Go to her page to see what people say.

Here's an expanded version of my answer to the second question. Circle of Impact PPT Values

All leadership begins with personal initiative. Regardless of who you are, what you do, where you live, or the situation you are in, to lead requires initiative, the exercise of your own individual will to create movement toward some end. 

For that reason, we must lead ourselves to have some purpose, some vision for what we want, and a set of values that inform us about what our leadership is about. If I lack perspective about my purpose in life, then I will find it hard to lead.

What on earth would I be leading people toward?

Without our ownership of a moral view of life, personal initiative is empty of meaning. Are our actions just the expenditure of energy to fill up time and move us through space? Our purpose is tied to the measure of our lives, which is the difference that we make, a difference that should matter.

When we have a sense of purpose, we gain the strength to lead others, to stand on principle when it is hard, to have courage to keep going in the face of hardship, and create a future where it seems to be absent.

This is what separates a leader from a manager. A leader is going somewhere, and calls people to join them. A manager organizes the organizational processes that achieve the efficiencies needed for the proper functioning of an organization.

Leadership is personal, regardless of the situation. Whether you are a corporate CEO, a stay-at-home dad, a middle school mentor or the manager of a local retail business, leadership is your expression of your purpose and values that function in a vision for making a difference that is the impact of who we are everyday.

Thanks for the great question, Misti.

Measuring Up

How do you measure success? I'm not hearing much talk about success right now, but we should.

The way we measure success is being radically altered.

If money was your measure, then your perception of your success is being altered.

If title was your measure, then your perception is being adjusted.

If security was your measure, then your perception is being challenged.

We are, right now, at a transition point in history where virtually every measure of success is up for grabs. If you listen and observe what people are saying and doing, you'll hear them talk about success as being about "MY" success. It is about what I get from success. It is about how I look compared to the next fella. Measures of success have been about personal accumulation. This is now changing.

There are at least two measures of success that are now emerging into prominence.

1. What is my impact? What difference have I made? What is change have I created? 
This measure has always been there. It was just viewed as a secondary measure. Change was a means to the end of personal accumulation. Now, impact is a preeminent measure, and what I get out of it is a secondary one.

Now, what I'm giving to make a difference is becoming a measure of impact. Are you giving back? Are you giving away for free part of yourself or your business that strengthens the business and community environment you are in?  Are you a giver or a taker? Are you acting out of thanks or entitlement? People are watching and their choices in the future are being impacted by this change in measurement.

This is one of the new measures of success. It is one that I see at the heart of leadership.  A second one is ...

2. How does your performance measure up to your potential?
I encounter people every week who want to impress me with either their ability or their success. They are all ego. Their high pressure tactics are old school.

Let me tell you something. I don't really care what you've accomplished in life. The past is just that past. I'm interested in your perception of your potential, and what you are doing to do to develop to meet that potential. I'm interested in what you have learned from your past that is helping you make a difference right now.

Don't compare your self to other people. You are not other people. I'm not you, you are not me, neither of us is the next guy or gal. We are who we are, and ultimately the only valid comparison is between where we am right now and where our potential leads us.

The reality is that most of us have no idea of what our potential is. The horizon of our potential is so near that we live in fear of reaching it too soon. For thirty years, I've operated on the principle that my horizon is beyond my reach, and I'm going after it. My inspiration was an interview that Johnny Carson did with Diana Nyad after her unsuccessful attempt to swim from Cuba to the US. She talked about what she learned about herself. I want that same knowledge of my horizon potential. It is my supreme measure of success.

Right now, each one of us is being given the opportunity to change everything about our lives that constrains us from meeting our potential. If you live in fear and desperation, you'll end up losing. If you live with an eye to opportunities, then you will learn to see the potential in every situation. And that potential is the opportunity for making a difference, for creating change, for having an impact.

How are you measuring up? What difference are you making? How are you giving back?  What are your plans for reaching your potential? Can you see the horizon of your potential?  Are you ready to go after it? Then, don't wait, get after it today. Set the pace and we'll be along side as discover new measures of success.

Quick Takes: Measuring the Impact of "Soft Skills"

Dan McCarthy writes on an important topic that those of us in the leadership development world need to address - measuring the impact of "soft skills."

... if you’re trying to improve these skills, how to you know if you have or haven’t? And if you have, what’s the impact?

That’s a question the training industry has been struggling with since the early cavemen were teaching fire-starting and wooly mammoth hunting techniques. There have been stacks of books and research that address that topic, and quite frankly, I think it’s something we in the training industry obsess about too much. I suspect a lot of training measurement activity is self-serving, and if we were doing a good job, line executives wouldn’t really care. Think about it ...

The problem isn't the program directly. Training and development programs are liking planning projects. They are the sort of thing that leaders and managers think should be done.  They may not be exactly sure why. As a result, the focus and the measures for the program are not clear enough.

It is analogous to the raising of children. I'm basing this on thirty seven years involvement in a wide variety of programs focused on youth development.  Over the years, I've found parents who want the best for their children thinking that involvement in activities are the key. So they run them from piano practice to soccer practice to scouts, and then home for school work, with the notion that their child is gaining something from the experience. What is missing is a clear goal for the activity.  As a result, the activity becomes mere busy-ness, and whatever beneficial effect of the activity is quickly lost with the next activity.

The same is true for programs that develop "soft skills."  It has to be more than an HR activity. The program needs to be tied to clear business goals. 

This is why I emphasize "impact" over "results" with my clients. By impact I mean the capacity to create change or make a difference. A difference that is measurable and tangible.  To put another way, if your program isn't creating change, then you have a compartmentalize context where each program functions within its own world of self-importance. The "soft skills" lose out in this case because they are not tied to business goals.

For example,  what if an analysis showed that you needed to be more collaborative as a company. Collaboration is a "soft skill" founded on the ability to interact with people.  There are many skills that contribute to collaboration that could be a part of the program.  Here's the problem. Unless the development of collaboration is done within the context of the processes of the business, the benefit remains an abstract one without the level of impact needed.  The difference has not been made, and as result soft skills are seen as irrelevant to meeting business goals.

Bottom line - "soft skills" development that are not tied to business goals are activities without a sufficient purpose. 

The challenge for us in the leadership development world is to understand the nature of the business goals and craft our training and consulting to address those issues. We must be solution providers, not just activity organizers.