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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

How Do You Create a Culture for Breakthroughs?



"The problem, if you love it, is as beautiful as the sunset." – Jiddu Krishnamurti

Is it possible for a CEO to create a new future for their organization?  A big part of the CEO’s job is to do just that.  Yet, many companies don’t invent the future.  They maintain status quo.  As a result, they become casualties of the economy or worse, the competition?  Inventing the future requires one to
rock the boat.  Doing so, results in innovative products and services or significant cost cutting initiatives.

Nevertheless, many organizations choose to protect status quo because they are too vested in the existing infrastructure.  On the other hand, when you look at extraordinary leaders, you find a complete disruption of status quo.  

Breaking the Rules

So, what separates extraordinary leaders from proponents of status quo?  They break the rules.  Except, it is not arbitrary or capricious.  When you look at examples of extraordinary, like the Founding Fathers of the United States or Jack Welch of GE, certain practices or principles become apparent.  To start, there is a declared intention.  There is also a purpose or something to stand for and finally there is a clearly articulated commitment.

·      A powerful declaration can create a quantum leap.  It is a way of saying what the future will be, instead of being at the effect of the future.  However, when you declare a possibility that you have never accomplished before, it simultaneously creates a problem.  Depending on the mindset of the leader, that problem could be viewed as something to avoid.  Similarly, the same problem can be viewed as an opportunity to uncover what is missing between where you are and where you want to be.  The declaration creates the future and paves the way for what people are standing for. 

·      A stand is similar to the purpose.  It is what unites people.  It is what people want to be part of now and in the future.  It creates the consciousness or value system. 

·      A clearly defined commitment determines what actions one will take.  The commitment supports the declaration.  More importantly, it helps one understand who they have to be to carry out the declaration.            

This article will look at leaders who created problems to disrupt the present and forge ahead into a new future.  We will also uncover the strategies and practices they implemented to effectuate long-standing changes.  The article will also discuss what made it possible for them to continue creating the future.   

How Extraordinary Leaders Separate Themselves from Ordinary Leaders

Leaders do not have the luxury of falling back into their comfort zone.  In some cases, creating a problem is designed to transform an existing problem.  In other cases, it is designed to create a new and empowering future. 

For example, when the Founding Fathers declared independence from Great Britain, they created a problem to solve the existing problem of taxation, among other issues.  At the same time, that problem made it possible for a new and innovative nation to be born.  Without the problem our Founding Fathers created, the US would still be a colony, paying taxes to Great Britain all the while having no representation in Parliament.

Similarly, when a leader declares the future for his or her company, this inherently creates a “problem”, mostly because there is no blueprint yet.  More importantly, there is no proof or evidence that it can be accomplished.  Declaring a future which, does not exist, requires everyone involved to risk walking through the proverbial dark tunnel.  The declaration breaks from the past or the status quo, demanding new thoughts, new needs and certainly new skills and competencies.

In addition, an extraordinary leader must take a stand for something bigger than the problem that has been created. This stand becomes the new value system of the organization, much like our Founding Fathers took a stand for freedom (press, religion, speech…).  It becomes the platform from which to speak.  It also becomes the common ground for everyone to be a part of.  We are still a nation that stands for freedom.  A powerful stand inspires and motivates people.  Out of this inspiration and motivation people are driven to innovate.  When people are empowered to be innovative, their commitment increases. They have a chance to take new actions and be proud of their accomplishments.

Finally, our Founding Fathers were highly committed to building a nation.  So much so, they created an unprecedented constitution.  When leaders take actions which are correlated with their commitment, they set the example for others to follow.    

In another example, when Jack Welch became the CEO of GE, there was nothing wrong with the enterprise.  It was not in distress or in need of a turn around.  Yet, he was committed to building an extraordinary corporation.  So, he created a problem.  He declared that every business unit had to be number one or number two in its respective industry.  If they were not, the unit would be sold.  If your unit were ranked number six in its industry, you would have had a problem.

At the same time, Welch stood for his people.  Instead of micro managing them, he ensured they had the appropriate training and development to fulfil his declaration.       

Declaration, stand and commitment are practices used by high performing leaders, athletes and artists.  In some cases, people have not distinguished them as practices.  Nevertheless, once distinguished, it helps a person clearly distinguish the future as well as the necessary actions to fulfill it. 

                         Continuing to Create the Future

Many companies have fulfilled their declaration.  In the meantime, they are maintaining status quo.  Unless corporations create new declarations, their future will continue to experience results which resemble the past, with the addition of more, better or different.  Quantum leaps require bold declarations and a clear committed mindset to navigate though change.

What do you think? I’m open to ideas. Or if you want to write me about a specific topic, let me know.




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