I was wrong. I’ll admit it now. But at the time, it seemed to go against everything I knew, and felt, as a CEO.
I’m talking about going out on a limb. As a leader. Should you do it? And if so, what should you do when you get there?
I’ll get to my hard-learned lesson in a minute. But first, let’s look at the issue:
High-powered and high-visibility leaders often must make controversial decisions. It’s easy to find yourself in a situation where your point of view, while valuable, is not shared by those around you. You might feel it’s your duty to go out on that limb.
I’m not talking about merely “unpopular” decisions here. I’m talking about game-changers: Big risks with superstars and/or strategic investments that hold the potential for far more than incremental progress: I’m talking about ten-fold, or even hundred-fold, growth in financials and personal impact.
Sometimes the consequences of our decisions can cost millions and make a huge difference in the world. Some leaders, like first responders, must make life-or-death decisions, so their skills, reasoning, and support teams must be the very best available.
In those situations, learn what I did: It’s not your duty to go out on that limb. In fact, if you go too far, and there’s no one there to support you, back up!
Especially in these days of political and business turbulence and risk, it is fine—indeed, it’s advisable—to retreat, even for a short time, to the safety of well-considered support. You’ll come out stronger, and more likely to succeed, if you first gather your A-Team to help you shore up your position.
As a leader, you need to get your troops behind you. You need stories, facts, and the ability to persuade them. You’re the one who needs to give them that ten-fold increase in impact, power, and contributions to positive change for their stakeholders and the public. Note that I say ten-fold increase in impact; that doesn’t necessarily mean “ten-fold increase in head-count.”
As I’d hinted above, this retreat-from-the-shaky-limb approach didn’t come easily to me. I had mentors tell me to back off if I didn’t have enough support. Ron Heifetz, one of those distinguished mentors I met in the Harvard Leadership Program (whose participants I stay in touch with to this day), also shared this perspective.
“What does he know?” I thought at the time, dismissively. “He’s an academic. What does he know about my situation as a CEO?” But then I stayed in his weeklong immersive leadership session, featuring remarkable leaders from around the world. Listening to their stories made me realize I was wrong: Go out too far on a limb, and it will, simply, break.
The insights I learned from Ron and the others have been life-saving, so I’ve gone out of my way to pass them on to the world.
Resources for you
Here’s a short talk by Ron, about “going to the balcony.” I think you’ll like the perspective it provides on leadership:
You might also want to check out Ron’s books. I feel his best-seller on Adaptive Leadership is a practical leadership framework that helps individuals and organizations adapt and thrive in challenging environments. It’s about being able, both individually and collectively, to take on the gradual but meaningful process of change: Think of it as purposeful evolution in real-time.
Finally, be sure to view any of Ron’s Ted Talks on leadership.
About the Author, Patty DeDominic
After decades of building own multi-million dollar enterprise, Patty became an angel investor and business consultant. Today she is a no nonsense, fun loving Business Coach for high achieving teams.
Patty founded and built PDQCareers & CT Engineering, the 600 employee Recruiting/Engineering Outsource Contracting firm doing business across the USA and in 3 countries (Japan, the Philippines and Jamaica). She successfully founded, then acquired companies and after placing over 250,000 people she sold in 2006. That business and former clients are now part of America’s largest specialty staffing supplier, Employbridge.
Some of her chairmanships include: The LA Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Women Business Owners and the Foundation for SCORE.org where she helped start the private million-dollar fundraising projects.
Patty and her husband Gene Sinser, a sales executive and art gallery owner, raised a blended family of 5 kids and are now proud grandparents of 5. She loves her animals including chickens and donkeys and today she gets to live in the “country” on Wings Ranch in Santa Barbara county.
Patty DeDominic is a business coach to businesses exceeding $10 million in annual sales. She was named CEO of the Year by the Los Angeles Business Journal, Received a Lifetime Achievement Award from two United States Presidents and formerly built, grew then sold a 600 employee firm that is now part of a billion dollar staffing leader.
https://www.dedominic.com/strategy or text me at 805 453 7490 to see if we can help you find more than a few hundred thousand hidden in your business. We did with 4 new clients this quarter. My goal is to help clients net one million more before year end!