What should Leaders be measured on???

What should Leaders be measured on??? The answer might surprise you.

Organizations consistently face challenges in defining and assessing the performance of their leaders. It takes a lot of time and effort to analyze & arrive at how and what to measure leadership performance. Most Organizations measure leadership on the outcomes (what they need) that they are looking to accomplish.

Everything that we measure Leaders on is Organization oriented and their career growth is directly influenced by their ability to drive the outcomes effectively. What Organizations don’t visualize & realize is how these factors influence the leadership behaviors within the organizations.

“What gets measured gets done (managed)”

 – Peter Drucker

The focus is on using frameworks like Management by Objectives (MBO) or Objectives & Key Results (OKRs) etc for defining the outcomes they are looking for. The Organizational & Leadership focus is so much on accomplishing what is intended, how they are getting things done is completely ignored. While it is important that we focus on the outcomes, it is equally important that we focus on how these outcomes are being accomplished. The impact of not doing this is now being clearly felt by many organizations across the industry domains.

As per Global Leadership Forecast report 2021, there is a dearth of leaders within Organizations across the global landscape. Developing the next generation of leaders is listed as the topmost challenge by 55% of CEOs across the globe and Attracting & retaining top talent is list at third position with 52%.

The bench strength of leaders within an organization is at an all-time low, with only 11% Human Resource Heads saying they have a strong bench to fill leadership roles and the main reason listed is leadership retention due to Burnout. 44% of current leaders across organizations are feeling Burnout and 86% of high-potential employees are at risk of burnout.

Add to this the Great Resignation that was influenced to a great deal by the pandemic. However, as per HBR article “The Great Resignation Didn’t Start with the Pandemic”, it is clear that the trend started almost a decade ago. What I strongly believe is that the pandemic only enhanced the numbers exponentially. The reasons for the Great Resignation are mostly around how the organizations treat their employee and the experience they provide to them on a day-to-day basis.

McKinsey’s Quarterly report ‘Great Attrition’ or ‘Great Attraction’? The choice is yours published in Sep 21 highlights “If the past 18 months have taught us anything, it’s that employees crave investment in the human aspects of work. Employees are tired, and many are grieving. They want a renewed and revised sense of purpose in their work. They want social and interpersonal connections with their colleagues and managers. They want to feel a sense of shared identity. Yes, they want pay, benefits, and perks, but more than that they want to feel valued by their organizations and managers. They want meaningful—though not necessarily in-person interactions, not just transactions.”

All the above factors clearly establish that the current way of measuring leadership performance is not helping organizations sustain their performance levels and growth in the long run.

Leadership is a multi-dimensional and complex mechanism that has been and is being researched for many decades. There are many different theories of leadership, and no single definition or approach to measuring leadership performance can be effective or applicable.

Measuring leadership performance is further complicated by the fact that leadership is very individual-oriented and is influenced by multiple factors both intrinsic to the person and extrinsic driven by the organizational structure, culture & environment.

Before we dig deeper into what should Leaders be measured on, it is important to understand why Leaders should be measured in the first place. There could be many reasons to measure leadership performance. A few of the reasons are listed below:

  • To identify leaders who are effective in accomplishing intended results and consistently contribute to the overall Organization’s success.
  • To develop leaders so that they can continue to succeed and produce positive results helping organizations not just stain but continually evolve & excel.
  • Help organizations assess the validity, relevance, and effectiveness of their leadership development programs.
  • To gain insights into the state of various dimensions of the organization and how they are functioning.
  • Can be used as a tool for succession planning to effectively reward consistent performers, thereby enhancing people’s engagement, motivation, and fulfilling career aspirations.
  • To ensure the organization is creating the right environment for the people to be at their best in order to maximize their individual, collective & Organizational potential as well as performance.

The pandemic definitely has changed the way people look at work & life, the priorities have changed more towards living life purposefully than living luxuriously. It has forced people to hit the most needed “PAUSE” button in life and reflect on where they are in life, what their purpose is, how are they leading their lives, and what their priorities are. The “HOW” (the experience & the journey of life) has become more prominent than the “WHAT” (The luxuries & The materialistic).

Leadership is not about leading people but about being a leader

– Nivarti Jayaram

In every organization and society at large, there are many people who aspire to become leaders. Many are confused & think that leading people is the key to becoming a successful leader and having a fulfilling leadership career. However, what they don’t realize is that leading people and being a leader are two very different things.

A person who simply leads large number of people focused on accomplishing outcomes the organization intends is often seen as bossy, demanding and controlling. They are execution focused, keen on getting things done, are authoritarian and are firm believers in directing & telling people on what to do. They strongly believe that the vision & strategy are capabilities that only people at the top can define and even understand. The people lower in the value chain don’t necessarily need to be explained or made to understand why the organization is doing what they are doing, how are the efforts & deliverables of people at every level are contributing to the overall success of the organization. That is only applicable for the privileged few at the top.

A leader is someone who inspires others to achieve great things. They provide coaching, mentoring, support and direction as needed by people they work with. Being a leader is not easy. It takes a lot of hard work, dedication & selflessness. It’s about putting everyone ahead of yourself, prioritizing their needs and development. However, if one is willing to put in the effort consciously, they will find that being a leader is one of the greatest things that can happen and the journey is the most fulfilling one in life. However, for many aspiring leaders to undertake this journey, Organizations need to provide the right environment, motivation, support and foster a culture of “Grow yourself by growing others”.

Disruption being the new constant, organizations need to be more agile in order to be able to pivot their strategies dynamically for them to be able to not just survive but thrive and excel. This essentially means we need Organizational Leadership to be more people-driven than policy or outcome driven.

Take care of the people and they take care of everything

else the Organization needs” – Nivarti Jayaram

For this to happen, Organizations must be very clear about the different dimensions they want to focus on, what experiences they want to create and make a difference to everyone involved, the environment, the society, the customers, the partners, and the employees. For example:

Almost all Organizations define their vision & purpose in terms of what they want to accomplish and fulfill from a customer perspective. The same could be thought about from an employee perspective too.

The questions Organizations need to reflect on are:

  • What do you want to be known for from an employee perspective?
  • What experience do we want to create for our people on a day to day basis?
  • What environment & culture should we establish for us to create the right employee experience?
  • What leadership behaviors do we need our Leaders to role model for us to foster the environment & culture we need?
  • What are the key metrics that would indicate the Leaders exhibiting the intended behaviors consistently?

They should clearly define what their priorities are, and what it means to be a leader in the context of their Organization. Leadership performance should be measured to cover all dimensions of being a leader in the context of the Organization. The various dimensions that can be ideally measured for someone to be looked up to being a Leader are:

  • Building Trust & Transparency: Trust is the foundation of any and every relationship in life and Transparency is one of the key factors to building trust. Trust is not binary, it’s never like either I trust you or I don’t, it’s always about how far I trust you and it is contextual. The level of trust can vary in different situations, circumstances and groups of people that are involved in them.

“Trust is never binary, it’s never like either I trust you or I don’t,

it’s always how far I trust you” – Nivarti Jayaram

According to David Maister, Building Trust involves four elements, Credibility, Reliability, Intimacy & Self-orientation. While Credibility, Reliability & Intimacy contribute positively towards building trust, Self-Orientation will lead to negatively impacting trust building.

If you are keen to learn “How to build trust faster?”, you can watch my video on the topic here: https://youtu.be/su36z1wDgSQ

Leadership should be measured on their ability to build and maintain trust with all their team members. The more people trust their leader the greater sense of ownership & belongingness they display towards the organization.

  • Navigate the Disruption: Disruption is the new constant and according to a report published by Mckinsey in May 2020, the disruption cycle is becoming shorter and the impact increasing exponentially by the year. The continued success of Organizations depends entirely on its leadership’s ability to successfully navigate the disruption and minimizing its impact. It involves identifying level of certainty in the uncertainty arising from the disruption, being flexible enough to adapt their strategies dynamically based on the new information available and being able equip & empower people to be able to make the right decisions at the opportune time.
  • Foster Collaboration: In this world driven by competition where everyone is looking at their own personal & professional growth, fostering collaboration is key to building high-value creating teams that are focused on shared objectives & collective outcomes. To build a culture of collaboration, leadership needs to embrace & promote vulnerability and avoid impostorism at all costs. The level of collaboration the leaders can foster in the teams defines the level of commitment & focus on collective outcomes & team growth than individual objectives.
  • Employee Orientation: The majority of leaders & organizations misinterpret being employee oriented leads to compromising organizational interest and impacts the overall accomplishment of vision & objectives. Actually, the converse is true. Being Employee oriented is all about building relationships with each & every employee, understanding their strengths, aspirations, and limitations, helping them understand how they can contribute to their team, business unit & the organization, coaching, guiding, and mentoring them so they can realize their full potential. It’s about putting people first & at the center of everything the organization does in order to gain their full commitment, focus & ownership towards fulfilling the organizational vision & purpose.
  • Being Dispensable: For Organic Leadership growth in an Organization, a leader should only move to the next role when they have made themselves dispensable in the current role. Becoming dispensable involves identifying the right talent within the team, developing them personally & professionally, equipping them with the right skills, and providing the right visibility & engagement at the right levels within the organization and across the partner network.

To be dispensable, one needs to ensure there is an acceptance of the next leader within the teams, with the peers, and also the greater part of the Organization.

  • Being Purpose Driven: Leadership is all about executing what is defined. It’s also about challenging the status quo in the interest of what the Organization is intending to fulfill, The Purpose. Being purpose-driven is one of the very important traits of being a leader. A Leader needs courage & conviction to be able to challenge the status quo. For this to happen, they need to be confident of their trade, aware of the value they bring to the organization, and open to being challenged & proven wrong. They need to be resilient and open to failure. Leaders who are purpose-driven, make all strategies, plans & decisions with the sole intention of fulfilling that purpose even at the cost of themselves.
  • Ability to inspire & influence: Gone are the days when everyone just followed the directions that are given. With the new generations of the workforce coming in with greater maturity and entrepreneurial mindset, they look to challenge the ways of working and ways of leading in organizations. This calls for the Leadership to be able to influence through persuasive skills, being vulnerable & authentic self. They should inspire people through their ability to continuously learn, unlearn & relearn, be open to experiment, and innovate.
  • Role Modelling: Practice what you preach & treat others the way you like to be treated are two things that echo role modeling. Leaders should role model all the behaviors & habits that they intend everyone they interact & work with should look to emulate.
  • Distributed Leadership: For organizations to be agile and respond effectively to the dynamically changing internal/external environment, we need decisions to be made in a quick time. A right decision made at the wrong time doesn’t yield the same result as it was made at the right time. Leadership can no longer be depending on Organizational Hierarchies and should be distributed across all levels within an organization. Decisions should be made where the maximum information resides. For it to happen, Leaders should be able able to develop leadership capabilities across the length & breadth of the organization. This creates a greater level of success & sustenance for an Organization and removes people’s dependency on decision-making. I have used the below 4E framework successfully in order to build leaders at different levels.

First the pandemic and now the ensuing conflicts across different parts of the globe are disrupting the way the world functions and defining a new world order. Organizations cannot sustain the traditional ways of leading and have to change their leadership strategies.

For them to be effective at doing so, they need to change the way Leadership is measured in order to not just sustain but continue to thrive & excel. If we continue to focus on the current ways of measuring leadership, the organizations would more likely be doomed soon.

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