May 22, 2013

Colin Powell on "the Decisive Edge": Be Ready to Respond to Disruption

Posted by Mary Yanocha | 0 Comments

Does your team believe in you? Do you empower them to carry out the mission?

To a packed house at the Gartner PPM & IT Governance Summit (dovetailed with the Gartner Enterprise Architecture Summit) today, Ret. General Colin Powell, former National Security Advisor and Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, and recently author of a bestseller on leadership, spoke with authority and a surprising amount of wit and humor. “There’s nothing static about what you’re doing anymore,” he said in his the opening remarks. How true. The General covered so much ground during his 75-minute presentation, but what struck me most were his remarks on leadership and change.

During his early military career he was given a simple piece of advice that he never forgot, “…if you perform, you’ll move up.” The point was that no matter what your circumstances or obstacles you’ve had in life, you have to do something with what you do have, and not just drift along. It’s about taking charge.  As a leader, you have to be willing to adapt and understand the need for change in order to go about it. As you shift your strategy in response, make sure it’s understandable to your stakeholders. In military terms, first pick a “key terrain” (main effort) to go after which will be the metric to show if you have won (achieved the goal). Focus your assets on the “main attack” (mission). We so easily get bogged down by trying to fix or change too many things at once. Once your focus is diffused, you lose a decisive edge. Stop and pick the most important mission and “mass” (focus) your power against the single goal. As business disruptions come along at an accelerated pace, we as leaders need to be smart enough and agile enough to change the strategy.

To change the strategy also means that you need a strong team around you to carry it out. Strong leadership requires followership. And followers get excited when they believe in what they’re doing. Leaders earn the right of trust from their teams when they demonstrate and convey a sense of purpose to inspire action. Everyone plays an important role, and wise leaders never forget the human elements of respect, trust, and empowerment at every level. Teams respond positively to the trust you put in them. Does your team believe in you? Do you give them the tools and empower them to carry out the mission? Do you energetically convey a focused purpose?

Answer these questions honestly while looking in the mirror: it's the only way to jumpstart change.


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