Leadership : Thriving! A Strategy for Survival

If 2004 is to become a year of recovery, senior leaders must lead by example and exercise muscles which may have atrophied. As executives look to focus on growth over cost-cutting in 2004, a renewed focus on a set of core strategic pillars to include the actions and metrics of success will allow them to achieve sustained growth in any economic environment.

Growth has little or nothing to do with industry maturity, geography or business cycle, rather, successful growth is possible in any industry, in any region at any time. Growth isn't dependent on external factors but is critically dependent on the internal attitude, behavior and actions of the company’s senior leadership, which by action and example, is the company.

Throughout the last three years, executives in many industries have been laser focused on contraction to survive. Words like outsourcing, downsizing, consolidation and discretionary spending moved well beyond the vocabulary of the CFO right down to the entry level employee, which, by the way, there weren’t very many of, you know, as a result of the hiring freeze.

Leadership behaviors have been altered by their experience and with the advent of increased spans of control, e-mail as a communication tool, tele-commuting and a survival mentality, newly deemed non-essential programs, like leadership development have become things of our management past. Well, it is time to bring back the golden-oldie, management development, now known as leader development and its old friend, mentoring.

Leaders have a choice as to the outcome of 2004, whether it is one of more of the same or if it is a recovery, in their company, as a result of a renaissance in the form of good old-fashioned management attention to selecting, nurturing, developing and leading great leaders.

Beyond survival as the corporate strategy, senior leaders can begin anew to develop their future leaders with a commitment to:

  • Leader succession planning starting at the foundation of the firm, not the top
  • Nurturing and developing leaders
  • New talent infusion as a strategic imperative
  • Identifying core leader behaviors and attributes
  • Assessing behavior and coaching – start at the top to set the tone
  • Modeling the appropriate leadership behavior   

The world is not short of capital looking for opportunity. As the recovery comes, the scarce resource for most companies will not be capital, but leadership talent.


Senior leaders can use the following seven behavioral attribute statements to guide and assess their progress in becoming the leader that others will want to emulate.


•        Personal Conviction

Senior leaders must demonstrate a strong personal conviction to a core set of beliefs and values by which they live their lives and to select a set of key issues and actions believed to be vital to the success of their business.


•         Vision

Senior leaders must demonstrate a well-developed sense of what the future will bring, seeking responsibility for the creation of and the commitment to a vision of the future.


•         Trust

Senior leaders must establish bonds of trust with individuals and teams.


•         Inspiration

Senior leaders must stretch the team to a higher level of excellence and achievement, while expanding each individual’s comfort zone, including their own.


•         Team Leadership

Senior leaders must recognize and demonstrate that a team can achieve more than a collection of disjointed individuals.


•         Risk Taker

Senior leaders must understand that gain can only be achieved with a commensurate level of necessary risk and be accountable for the outcome.


•         Drive To Excel

Senior leaders must constantly seek to improve themselves, their team and their company.


The tool is not nearly as important as the action. Leadership voids are costly, do something. Now! Assess your current people strategies, learn what resources are available, think about your plan, act with a sense of urgency, set the appropriate internal expectations and measure your progress and success.


A purpose to believe in, articulating your strategy, that includes the development of leaders is a necessary start. Assessing and coaching your leaders about their visible behaviors will provide developing leaders a tangible roadmap for personal improvement. 



Dan S. Woodward is a management consultant and author of THRIVING! – A Strategy Communication Framework. A twenty year veteran of the IT industry, CIO Magazine CIO-100 recipient and featured CEO in True Leaders: How Exceptional CEOs and Presidents Make a Difference by Building People and Profits (Dearborn Trade Press), he assists companies in solving business imperatives.


E-mail at dwoodward@wm-ventures.com

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