New Commandments for Leaders

If I were to suggest ten commandments to guide today’s chief executives in the task of building innovative, resilient, high-performance teams, my initial list would probably look something like this.


1.  Have a vision for change and “connect” it to your employees’ reality

Don’t expect your organization to change if employees do not know where you want to go. Don’t assume that they know what the intended change means for their day-to-day job. Explain exactly how their role and performance is crucial in fulfilling your vision.

2.  Remove the barriers that impede or retard progress towards the goal

Things always stand in the way of change. As the chief executive, you have the power and ability to remove or alter those things. Your employees may not. It can be as simple as giving explicit permission to do things differently or being more tolerant of the inevitable “productivity dip” as people develop new competencies.

3.  Remember that the primary objective is progress not perfection

Change requires courage and patience. Rome was not built in a day. Reward success and see failure as part of the learning process. Give constructive feedback by pointing the way, not the finger. Nurture intellectual capital, don’t intimidate and alienate it.

4.  Ensure your senior managers emulate the desired change

Actions always speak louder than words. The objective is not to tell but to show, dramatically and empathically, how the new way of doing things will start at the top. Senior management buy-in must be unequivocal, whole-hearted and openly demonstrated. Words become meaningless when behaviours tell a different story.

5.  Demonstrate the new rules and insist on accountability

If the objective is a new and different way of doing business, then old rules must be formally retired. Involve those who will be affected by the new rules in their determination and negotiate the consequences of not following the new “ground rules for success.” Without this collaboration, there can be no ownership and therefore no accountability.

6.  Redefine and augment individual responsibilities

Let people know they are primarily responsible for determining the most effective way to do their jobs and contribute to realizing the vision. This will mean asking questions, challenging conventions and finding better, more efficient ways to get their work done. Encourage people to re-engineer, define and clarify their role and attendant contribution in terms of the real value they can deliver to the customers.

7.  Insist on sharing and emphasize the value of a collective intelligence

The emphasis on collaboration must be both internal and external. There is a wealth of information available both inside and outside the organization. Look for it, learn from it, create new partnerships to harvest, exploit and leverage it to your competitive advantage. Utilize the “wisdom of the crowd” to balance individual perspectives and interests.

8.  Find the right people and invest in them

Talent is an asset, not an expense. Look for good people, especially those managers whose role is to harness creative potential and empower teams. Investment means more than having a decent training budget; it’s removing bureaucracy and providing the freedom to dare to be different.

9.  Understand the meaning of risk

Risk is not about fear; it’s about preparation and focus. Look for trends and new technologies that translate into new markets. Find genuine opportunities where others see barriers. Allow new business models to germinate. Remove killer phrases from the daily vocabulary. Play with novel concepts without severe or premature judgement.

10.  Get excited

Good things happen when people are enthusiastic. Your observable drive for change will inspire people. Contentment with the status quo leads to complacency and entitlement. You cannot feign passion. When your people see it in you, their leader, they are more willing to get on board. When they don’t see it, they know you’re not really that serious.