The one contribution a CEO is uniquely expected to make is to give others vision and the ability to perform. Peter Drucker wrote this is in The Practice of Management almost 50 years ago, and it is the best one-sentence description of what a manager does that I have ever seen. 

It is only those organizations that perform that are rewarded by the market. It is the CEO’s responsibility and task to create a performing organization capable of meeting the demands and needs of its customers in a competitive market. This requires giving the members of the organization a vision of what the company needs to do to meet those needs. In addition, this means the CEO must insure that their people be given the training, the tools, the information, and the leadership they need to perform.

In the preceding paragraph, last sentence, we readily grasp in a clearly understood way what training, tools, and information mean. I don’t know that we understand leadership quite so clearly. When Drucker wrote this book, leadership was often summed up as making sure the organization was focused on doing the right things. These were things that moved you in the right direction, achieving the right goals, satisfying the right customers with the right products and services. There’s an old cliché that says “leaders do the right things, managers do things right.” We thought for a long time that we could separate leading and managing. It doesn’t work…there is too much confusing overlap.

When we’re digging into leadership, it’s impossible to make sense of it without realizing that it requires motivated, energized, and engaged followers. It is in this area where most of the work that has advanced the field of management has been done in the last 25–30 years. Here is some of what we’ve learned.

  • We have learned that people whose behavioral traits match up well with the known traits of high performers in their field are more likely to do well in their jobs. Performance-Enjoyment Theory from the field of psychology tells us that if we enjoy at least 75% of the tasks required in our job, we are three times more likely to succeed in it.
  • We have learned that organizations that work with their employees to help them get their expectations met begin to unlock an incredible amount of discretionary energy that employees bring with them to work every day. As they start to apply this discretionary energy they begin to get more engaged, more motivated, and more loyal. Costly turnover goes down and retention, productivity, and innovation go up.
  • We have learned that the attributes of good team players can be understood, measured, and strengthened in team members who are weak in some areas. Whether we think of it often or not, most of the work accomplished in our companies today could not be done without people working as a team in well understood roles and responsibilities.

For years, profit leaders have consistently invested in their employees through various types of training. Most of this has been done to develop higher skill levels and deeper knowledge of their jobs. For most, investing in behavioral development of employees is still uncharted territory. It offers rich rewards in an environment where talent is hard to find and attract. It’s time to do something about it. 

If you are interested in exploring this further, I encourage you to leave a comment here online. You are also welcome to contact me personally at [email protected]