What leaders DO makes all the difference. Over time, a business with strong leaders will outperform other businesses. It’s that clear.
For the last seven years I served as President and CEO of an outstanding company in south-west Michigan. Not long after I was given the opportunity to serve in the role, we were all challenged by the great recession. While that made for a rough start, during my time at the helm we transformed a business originally focused on metal forming into a high end global mechatronic company. In the challenging automotive business we grew from $90 million to nearly $250 million, with booked business that could quadruple the original top line by 2017. At the same time we expanded the number of people employed around the globe from 600 to 1600. It was one heck of a ride.
It is interesting now, to sit back and reflect on the many things I learned during those years. I am fond of the men and women with whom I worked and am proud of what we accomplished together. Of all the things I learned I am clear that the transformation and growth of the company was, in large part, the result of the leaders and the leadership systems that we put into place.
Building that leadership structure was inspiring, and has led to the founding of LeaderWork, which is committed to organizational success through the development of capable leaders and strong leadership systems. One quick story illustrates the question that LeaderWork will answer.
I was working with an engine remanufacturing company in Tacoma, Washington in the fall of 1988. “Participative management” was all the rage as the lessons of more fully involving the work force in making productivity gains was showing its potential. I had been contracted to teach leadership to a group of about 20 first time leaders. I finished the introduction session and was feeling pretty good about the message when one of the young leaders said to me, “This is so cool, I am all in, I cannot wait to get going with this. This will be a game changer for our company. I just have one question…. “What do I do tomorrow?”
That was an eye opener to me. I had not answered his fundamental question: “What do leaders DO?” His question never left me and for the past 25 years we have been working on the answers. DOing is not about getting on the right bus, making certain your ship is going the right way, or multiplying anything… this is the real daily stuff, the work tasks and the processes of leading.
Leaders are being put into positions in all our businesses with insufficient preparation and little clarity about the tasks of their work. We at LeaderWork want to change that. The purpose of LeaderWork is to prepare leaders for the tasks of leadership; to prevent the frustrations and failures that come from incomplete preparation and development. LeaderWork is in the business of teaching leaders how to DO leader work and developing leadership systems that makes what they DO productive.