What skills do leaders need to succeed in the global economy? Harvard Business School professor Linda A. Hill and leadership coach and writer Kent Lineback share their point of view as part of our Next Gen Leaders Series.
As globally-integrated firms like IBM are discovering, the roles of formal authority and hierarchy are declining in the workplace. What remains, however, is the core purpose they served – the need to influence others, to make a difference in other people’s actions and the thoughts and feelings that drive those actions.
Thus, the key challenge for IBM and others is this: if authority and hierarchy are waning, what are now the primary tools of influence available to those responsible for the performance of others? How, for example, can IBM’s Global Enablement Teams of senior leaders from mature economies best influence and develop the skills of local managers in emerging economies?
In this new world, we believe there are three key tools of influence, which we call the three imperatives of leadership:
Manage Yourself: Your ability to influence others begins with you and who you are as a person, and the most important feature here is whether people trust you. Are they confident you will do the right thing? Effective leaders now build relationships based on trust, not authority or social ties like friendship. And they do that by earning people’s confidence in their competence and character, the key components of trust. People trust someone who knows what to do and how to do it (competence) and who intends to do the right thing (character). Trust is the foundation of all influence other than coercion.
Manage Your Network: Interdependence has always been a hallmark of all organizations – no person or group works in isolation. But as organizations become more amorphous and fluid, as they spread around the world and embrace diverse cultures, this ability to connect and collaborate with those you don’t control grows even more crucial. It’s the only way to wield broad influence in the political environment that exists in all organizations.
Manage Your Team: Whether a group formally works for you or you assembled its members voluntarily for a specific reason, you must convert this group into a true team whose members are mutually committed to a common purpose – a group with such strong interpersonal ties that they believe “we” will succeed or fail together. When a team “clicks” in this way around a common purpose, its members are more committed, work harder, and are more productive and innovative because no member wants to let the others down. No leader can make a group into a team by decree. She can only foster the conditions that create a team and then manage the team through the social ties that bind members around a common purpose.
This strategic approach to management and leadership offers clear advantages:
The imperatives don’t depend on authority or hierarchy. They apply whether your responsibility for a group is assigned by an organization, conferred by members of the group itself, or assumed by you as you voluntarily step up to leadership.
The three imperatives are a better way to think about management and leadership than the hodge-podge of generic activities that traditionally defined those roles. Instead of performing 10-15 activities – motivating, controlling, communicating, and so on – you can focus on three key strategies that provide a simple but powerful framework for all your work. There’s no need to ask, “When do I apply the imperatives?” because the answer is, “Always – everything you do is an opportunity to apply and pursue them.”
The three imperatives are unlikely to change because they work across generations and cultures, all of which value trust, collaborative relationships, and commitment to a valued mutual purpose.
Finally, the imperatives are a guide to personal growth. They are the key areas that you must master on your years-long journey as a leader, guideposts you can use to assess your progress every day.
Linda A. Hill is Wallace Brett Donham Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and chair of the school’s Leadership Initiative. Kent Lineback, now a coach and writer, was a manager and executive for nearly 30 years. They are co-authors of Being the Boss: The 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader (Harvard Business Review Press, 2011) www.beingtheboss.com
Here’s another point of view from the NextGen Leaders series, from Wharton’s Mike Useem.