Thursday, March 21, 2013

Next Level Leadership

As I mentioned in my last post, the team I serve on at Chick-fil-A recently completed a leadership talent review. The purpose of this exercise was to calibrate our views on current and emerging leaders, identify gaps in our leadership pipeline and create development plans for individual leaders. If you’ve not done a review like this of your leaders, I highly recommend it.

Next Level Leadership

One of the more fascinating parts of the process was the calibration. We use the SERVE model as the framework for evaluating leadership competency. But an additional element surfaced that I found insightful. We didn’t have a formal name for it, so for now I’m calling it Next Level Leadership.

Here’s the essence of the idea… Every leader in a formal leadership position has the responsibility to lead their assigned area. This is what you’d expect. What was less apparent, but became obvious during our session, is that some men and women lead their assigned area and more. It was the “and more” that captured our attention.

You may have heard the term applied to an athlete: “He plays bigger than his size.” We identified some leaders who do the same. Here are a few examples – see if you can think of a leader who…

  • Thinks about the entire organization not just their assignment.
  • Builds strategic relationships across the organization.
  • Works to identify and help solve problems beyond their current role.
  • Has influence outside their assigned area.
  • Has demonstrated impact beyond their specific role.

If you’re evaluating leaders, you want to identify these men and women, because their orientation makes them a candidate for additional leadership responsibility. If you’re a leader who already does this – fantastic! If not, here are a few tips that could help you expand your influence and impact within your organization.

Think big picture. Be aware of what’s going on around the entire business. Stay current on key competitors in your industry. Think about how your business is going to need to be different in the future (5 – 10 years from now.) Think about potential threats to your business.

Serve beyond your assignment. Look for ways to add value across the entire enterprise – Volunteer for a cross-functional team. Share what you’re learning with others outside your area. Don’t hoard information – share it. You want to help the entire organization win not just your team.

Help others win. How many people can you say you’ve directly helped win in their career (outside those under your leadership?) Next Level leaders seem to help a larger circle of people. When you start looking for it, you may see them have lunch with a new employee, mentor someone from another department, share widely resources they’ve discovered, etc.

Don’t worry about who gets the credit. This may be the most challenging part. There’s something inside all of us that wants to be recognized for our accomplishments. Fight this tendency. If you do the activities I’ve suggested TO GET RECOGNIZED, there is a good chance it will backfire on you. If you’re seen as a self-serving leader, your career may never recover. Just serve.

What can you do to become a Next Level Leader?


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Comments (13)
  1. Serving out of honest humility seems to be echoed through each of the points. It’s not always easy remembering that. Workloads don’t always provide that, but we can choose to work with an attitude of service.

    - David Sparks
  2. Mark,

    Thanks for the reminder to expand my reach of influence. You have been given the gift of insight that only a few leaders possess. Thank you for the good word.

    - Timothy Lynn Burchfield
  3. Couldn’t agree more with thia idea. The leaserahip pipline is paramount to both the short and long term growth of a company. It is something that can make a good company great.

    - Tom Rhodes
    • I believe time and money invested on leadership development is the most important investment an organization can make. Good luck on your journey! Mark

  4. It was a thought provoking article.

    - Dr.Smitha Rahman
    • Thanks for taking time to comment. It has been a thought-provoking conversation for us. I’ll share additional thoughts as we make progress on our journey. Mark

  5. Very interesting insights. How can an organisation start the ball rolling, so to speak.

    - paddy downey
    • My recommendation is to begin by defining leadership. Until everyone agrees on what behaviors you’re actually looking for, creating a leadership pipeline will be impossible. Good luck! Mark

  6. Thank you for your vulnerability and sharing your observations Mark. Through my job, we are constantly assessing leaders at global companies. A large part of it assessing high potentials that need additional development to maximize their effectiveness. The first question we ask is this, “Who is asking questions and speaking a language that does not fit their current role?” Often times these are indicators of powerful leaders that are hidden in the company. Find them, develop them, watch them lead.

    - Sean Olson
    • Thanks, Sean. I love your question about questions! I have seen what you’re describing. The best emerging leaders do ask different questions. If I can serve you or your team in the future, please let me know. Mark

    • Sean, I love your insight! As I think back over the years, I agree with your conclusion: High Potential Leaders ask different questions. Thanks for sharing! Please call on me if I can serve you in the future! Mark

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