The Leadership Quadrants
Growing, dynamic organizations are never led by incompetent leaders. Some businesses can survive weak leaders, but in the end poor leadership saps organizational energy and effectiveness. The chaos and discord that ensues ultimately leads either to a change at the top or to the demise of the enterprise.
Look at any organization. If it's attracting talented, ethical, creative people who are then encouraged to do their best, give credit to a good leader. If you see those same types of people lacking motivation, being unproductive or even leaving for better opportunities, be assured that poor leadership is to blame.
If these problems go unchecked, an organization can find itself in a downward spiral, as increasingly fearful employees struggle to satisfy even the most basic customer demands.
So how does a leader move away from this worst-case scenario and toward a stronger organization?
Many leaders' first reaction is to find others to blame for a failure, but great leaders always look to themselves first. Executives must first take stock in their own leadership capabilities and then turn to their employees and look for ways to open communication and build trust so they can move forward.
The Leadership Quadrants describe the areas for exploring how leaders can improve their skills. The Leadership Quadrants touch on issues such as personal mastery, articulating a vision, motivating people and achieving goals, and fosters skills in the Six Leadership Attributes such as self-disclosure, soliciting feedback and active listening. Other attributes of great leaders include building collaborative teamwork and interdependent work environment, creating a culture of trust, focusing action on the future and change management.
How well do you and your high-potential employees master these quadrants?
Partnership Continuum, Inc. Leadership Quadrants™
The four Leadership Quadrants in the model are:
Leaders define an organization's vision, embody its ethics and values, and set boundaries of acceptable behavior. Because everyone looks to them, they have a huge responsibility to develop a high level of Personal Mastery.
In a sense, Personal Mastery is as simple as getting comfortable in your own skin. It's about understanding your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to technical, interpersonal and strategic capabilities.
On a larger level, Personal Mastery includes being comfortable with self-disclosure and active listening, the first of the Six Leadership Attributes. This skill enables the leader not to feel intimidated or to intimidate others when it's time to share information. Personal Mastery creates a climate for embracing open discourse and valuing employee feedback as if everyone's success absolutely depends on it . . . because it does.
Having a personal vision is important, but communicating that vision is critical. Great leaders communicate the big themes—and communicate means more than talking, it means connecting—which creates a common organizational vision that taps into the spirit of its employees.
Creating a shared vision is more than having a stated purpose or lofty goals. It's understanding the employees' shared values and desires and then aligning the organization's objectives with those values and desires.
Recently, a Baby Bell telephone company experienced a gut-wrenching crisis in leadership after a smaller, seemingly more dynamic company purchased them. From the beginning, the new CEO of the merged company flouted his disdain for the Baby Bell, and started to dismantle their 120 year-old culture of service. Thanks to constant berating, downsizing and poor morale, the quality of service suffered. Soon fourteen state public utility commissions were filing complaints and levying fines—some of the largest in that company's history.
The CEO left under a cloud of congressional hearings. Fortunately, the new CEO understood the Bell heritage. He immediately reinvigorated the company's human energy and brought back what he titled "The spirit of service." This shared theme, a hallmark of quality telephone service provided by the Bell System for more than 100 years, resonated with employees. Last month I met with their Vice President of Sales. He was a new person. The pride, energy and can-do spirit that emanated from him were inspiring. "Things were bad before," he said. "But the change is completely unbelievable. People love their jobs again."
People do things for their reasons, not for yours.
Great leaders know they can only achieve success through others. To accomplish great feats, leaders must first harness and direct every ounce of available human energy.
The skills in this quadrant build on the previous two quadrants. Through Personal Mastery and a shared vision, a leader can excite people to achieve more than they ever thought possible. One great motivator is taking an active interest in employees solving the problems they face every day. Sometimes it's something as simple as aligning everyday tasks in ways that deliver unexpected benefits, or creating new partnerships and alliances within the organization that open doors of influence and create momentum.
Rewarding collaboration, fostering interdependence, creating networks and information sharing environments exponentially increase task output and quality. Be an active listener and embrace vulnerability and empathy. These qualities will endear you to others and motivate them to succeed.
Exceptional leaders focus on results, but they also realize that achievement doesn't happen in a vacuum, and success doesn't happen because of one person's actions.
Great leaders are tenacious. They set high expectations. But they also communicate that they are equally responsible for delivering results. They share power and information and then let go of control, letting their employees do their jobs. Many great leaders will say that they know they are doing their job when they bring good people together and then get out of the way.
A true leader will embolden people to take risks, but they also give them the resources to turn those risks into positive outcomes. They never point fingers when the inevitable setback comes, and they also make sure to reward good work, even if the results aren't ideal. Results thus become part of a larger process of hard work and accountability.
Stephen M. Dent, founding partner of the consulting firm Partnership Continuum, Inc., is an award-winning organizational consultant working with such clients as USWEST, Inc. Northwest Airlines, AT&T, GE Capital Services, the U.S. Postal Service, NASA, Bank of America and Exult. He lives in Minneapolis MN.