It may seem surprising, but I still find that some leaders don’t reflect on the question of their leadership impact. Where they do, it’s often only in relation to their own immediate team. And yet, the responsibility that comes with leadership demands that we open ourselves to this question on a regular basis, not from a place of arrogance but from a place of consequences. What are the consequences of our leadership in our organisation?
For some leaders who do consider this question, the immediate response will be related to the hard measures of business or organisational performance. Fair enough. Ensuring that the financial and operational numbers are being hit is of course a legitimate measure of business success and therefore leadership. Or is that true? Could we perhaps argue that in fact ‘hitting the numbers’ is more of a managerial function than a leadership one? That is, ensuring the machine is well-organised, efficient, and focused.
Other leaders might speak more to the quality of their vision, their innovation, creativity, and ability to bring new thinking to the organisation. Others may believe their technical or expert knowledge is the real value they bring as a leader. And then there’s the skills such as inspiring, empowering, developing, and enabling others, and so on.
But what if there’s something else needed – a new yardstick beyond the familiar? The World Economic Forum was awash with leaders horrified at the impact of climate change and yet the issues have been known about for decades. The world is waiting on leaders to find solutions to complex and seemingly intractable problems and yet the first step has to be taking ownership and responsibility for our place in treating these problems as real and as our problems.
What if one of the most important yardsticks of leadership impact is really the consequences of our leadership beyond our organisation?
In other words, the impact of our leadership on our communities, our nations, and our planet. A new measure of leadership impact is needed that maybe speaks to morality, ethics, and character. Leadership impact that is about making the right choices not just for our organisation but for the wider system within which we live.
Of course, it’s not easy to rise up above the treadmill of the daily challenges within our organisation especially amidst huge global uncertainty and financial pressure. But then again isn’t that what leadership responsibility and impact is all about – facing the tough issues and finding the new ways forward, together. Consciously choosing a higher purpose for our focus and setting the course that ensures that we truly do make the right choices. Compare Microsoft that has only just announced its intention to be carbon neutral with Google that has been carbon neutral for years and, in fact, is giving back by being carbon negative.
It’s not that this is the only measure that matters but it serves as an example of what the new leadership impact yardstick encompasses. And it has a lot more to do with the collective or common good.