What does leadership look like in 2018?
Are leaders still believed? Are leaders still trusted? The obvious answer is, “of course!” Just look at the health of the market, the economy and how one business, in particular, crossed the financial threshold into the trillion dollar market valuation (well done, Apple). On the other hand, stop and think about the divisive state of politics, the news, the global economy and the changes shifting us away from a more connected and open world, to one of nationalism and “let’s take care of our own first.” With all of these strange shifts (it does seem like we’re talking out of both sides of our mouth), the leaders of today not only have to deal with the economics and politics at work, but must dig deeper, and find more reason and meaning for their team to pull it together, show up, stand out and make a difference.
Leadership is about more than nurturing a team and contributing true economic value to the corporation.
Our world of disruption, innovation and transformation is less about the technology that we’re deploying (and the people who make it happen), and much more about getting back to what Simon Sinek has defined as “the why?” As more and more leaders begin to think about the true corporate “why?,” and how the culture of the team will (and must) adapt as our business world changes, there is - perhaps - something bigger to think about: How can we, as a brand, truly open up more. Not just to our consumers, but to our team as well.
Take a principled approach. Read Ray Dalio’s Principles.
It’s a big book, it’s a deep book and it’s a counter-intuitive book to how most businesses operate today. These principles worked for Ray Dalio (founder of Bridgewater Associates, which, over the last forty years, has become the largest and best performing hedge fund in the world). What’s most striking about the book, Principles - Life & Work (and how Bridgewater grew) is their unprecedented transparency (you can also learn about how radical it truly was in his TED Talk: How to build a company where the best ideas win). While Dalio encourages every organization (and individual) to pursue this route, there was a bigger theme (for me, personally) that emerged from the book that every organization (and individual) can focus on...
Make visible that which is hidden.
Data, business process, human resources, technology implementations, sales, marketing, professional development, internal meetings, team performance, and the list goes on. There are countless areas where leaders can make significant changes and advances, simply by making visible (to all) that which is hidden (to most). A great (and public) example would be MLS (aka Multiple Listing Service) for the residential real estate market. Think back before this platform existed. If an individual wanted to buy a home, they would speak to a realtor (usually referred by a family member or friend). This realtor held all of the available MLS information in a black box. More often than not, consumers would only hear of homes that the real estate agent was personally listing (which may be expanded to other agents in their office, or agents that the consumer’s agent was friends with). It was hard (almost impossible) to get a pulse for how many homes were on the market, their prices and more. The agents guarded this information. While the real estate industry may still have agents that don’t like the disruptive force of MLS, the industry continues to roll along. Consumers don’t just feel more empowered in their own home ownership journey, they are having more open and honest conversations with their agents, because there is less being hidden from them.
It’s not just an open market.
A former Google employee once told me that everyone who worked at company can see very specific information about every teammate on their internal platform. There was even an area that had each Googler’s presentation skills rated. Rated not just on how this individual does in the room, but ranked in relation to every other Googler. By making that (usually) hidden information visible, teams for pitches and presentations could get sorted in a much more efficient way. A strategic by-product of this ranking, was that Googler’s with a higher rating would often get called for external presentations (to clients or industry events) and this would heighten their visibility within Google, and to their industry. A helpful bump to one’s professional development.
A chance to make visible that which is hidden is available to one and all.
It’s a great question for every leader to ask: What is hidden that we can make visible? It can be asked today. Even if it is answered and resolved, it can be asked again next month, next quarter, and every year. There is always more. Companies always have these incredible pockets of information, talent and value that sits hidden and/or dormant (to a certain degree). As the French would say: "ouvre la fenetre!” Open the window. Let the sun shine in. Let the people walking by see what’s inside. Take a look around. Which companies have made visible that which is hidden, and how did that work out for them? Leaders lead. That is the job. Leaders clearing the path, not just for the rest of the team (and the bottom line) to succeed, but to set the business on a course that allows it to thrive (not just survive) in these hyper-competitive (and different) times.
Let this be the leadership battlecry from this day forward: Make visible that which is hidden!