(This is the fourth and final in a series of articles on the Four Cornerstones for Business Success.)
Leadership, our last cornerstone, is the most intangible, and quite possibly the most important of the four cornerstones. With expert, dedicated leadership, your company’s purpose can be focused and fulfilled; intelligent strategies generated and executed; and critical skills identified and refined. Without good leadership, very little of consequence can be achieved or sustained. The cornerstone work of leadership has four primary facets, all centered on a theme.
The first is values. Strong leaders have a clear set of personal and professional values. You know what’s important and why, and you base your actions and decisions on your value system. Clarity about your values allows you to articulate and communicate them to others.
Having a strong internal gyroscope makes a big difference in your ability to manage the constant change and myriad pressures that impact a leader.
The second aspect of leadership, principles, is a close cousin to values. These are the guiding beliefs based on your values. Some examples include: “Expect the best;” and “Always give people a second chance;” and “Teach by example;” and “Never give up.” The list of principles may be many or few, but each leader will have his or her signature principles that illustrate their values, providing guidance and inspiration.
The third aspect of leadership is practice, the day-to-day living demonstration of your values and principles. Leaders cannot escape the profound influence of their own example. What you do is even more important than what you say. It is imperative to “walk your talk.” Employees astutely and critically observe the behaviors, attitudes, and words of their leaders, and integrity is essential.
Finally, leaders must be authentic. Although excellence is the goal, perfectionism is not the means to that end. The job of a leader is too complex and challenging to expect perfection, but it is essential to be trustworthy. To be a trusted and effective leader includes being yourself, with a good command of emotional and social intelligence and a genuine and authentic manner.
The role of a leader is to continuously direct the energy and resources of the company, use the company’s collective intelligence responsibly, and hold high standards for all four cornerstones of the business. The art and craft of leadership is a subject unto itself. Many excellent resources are available for the personal and professional development necessary to be a great leader. Just a few of these include: individual coaching, executive leadership programs, books, webinars, etc. Whatever type of learning method you choose, expanding your leadership skills will provide a return many times over.
Although many of the factors that influence a business are beyond our control, our personal skills and the discipline to use them wisely are within our control. When you invest time, intelligence, energy, commitment, passion and perseverance in your organization and its mission, you will have the satisfaction of building something of lasting value. You will have created a thriving, successful company, meaningful to many people and important to your community. Use this metaphor of the four cornerstones to evaluate your organization, assessing these four elements and identifying any areas that may need strengthening.
In summary, here are the four cornerstones for business success. 1. Purpose must be articulated, renewed, and communicated. 2. Strategies must be created, implemented, and evaluated. 3. Skills must be valued, developed, and shared, and, 4. Leadership must be thoughtful, consistent and inspiring. When a business is strong in these four fundamentals, it can develop the capacity for greatness. Without these basics there can certainly be no hope for greatness. Excellence in all four cornerstones ~ purpose, strategies, skills and leadership ~ is the time-honored way to achieve business success.