Do your leaders know what you want from them? – Mark MacLeod

October 12, 2022 - Mark MacLeod

Do your leaders know what you want from them?

Many, if not most, of my conversations with CEOs end up covering the leadership team. After all, this is how a CEO succeeds – through her leaders. This is her leverage. Pure and simple.

Many CEOs are frustrated with their leaders. There are always great leaders in a team. But there is always at least one team member who can’t keep up. Who is no longer as relevant as they used to be (more on this topic here).

Interestingly, this continuum from great leader to not great is often inversely correlated with how long they have worked at the company. There are two things at play here:

i.) Newly hired leaders benefit from a honeymoon period. This is multiplied by the natural optimism that a CEO founder has. In that CEO’s eyes, for a time at least, this new leader can do no wrong!

Ii.) If your company is growing rapidly, then it is likely that some of your leaders have not kept up with that growth.

The Leadership Roadmap

Your product has a roadmap. You and your customers know what it can do today. Your customers tell you what they need. They tell you what they like and don’t like. They tell you why they churn. Based on that, you develop a roadmap. You know where to take your product so that it continues to delight your customers and so that your company continues to grow.

You need the same thing for your leaders. For each leader, you and that leader need to have a common, written understanding of that leader’s features, benefits, strengths, weaknesses, super powers, etc.

It is common to have a job description for a role. And each leader will have objectives that they sign up to deliver. But this is insufficient. This is not a roadmap.

Do your leaders know what you expect from them for maximum leverage? i.e. “In addition to fulfilling your job description and ensuring your team hits its goals, here is what I expect from you so that I can fully rely on you and have maximum impact in my role”.

Some examples:

Customer Success: I expect you to take the temperature of all our top customers. I expect no negative surprises when it comes to renewal for our top 20 customers.

CFO: I expect you to instrument our business so that, together, you and I know exactly what is and is not working and we can get to the root cause of any misses.

What we are trying to do here is articulate the magic that you expect from your leaders that is not captured in a job description. The things that make the leader stand out for you. The things that enable you to best leverage your super powers. If a leader continues to deliver that magic then you know they are keeping up.

Developing the roadmap

Your leaders have several customers:

Customer #1: The CEO

Other leaders in the senior team

The members of each leader’s team

You need input from each. The best way to do that is a 360 review. Here is a simple 360 that can be done as a self review as well.

Take the 360 feedback and, in addition, reflect on the magic that you need from each leader. Reflect on your super powers and think about what you need from your leaders, individually and collectively, so that you can spend the maximum amount of your time delivering and living your super powers.

As an aside, this exercise scales up and down the company. Your leaders rely on their team members the same way you rely on that leader. So those leaders can develop roadmaps for their direct reports.

Going the other way, the 360 and self reflection exercises can be used to develop a roadmap for yourself.

The goal, at any level, is to articulate the magic expected from that role and to enable every leader in your company to leverage her super powers to the fullest.

2023 is just around the corner. So, this is a perfect time to do this exercise.

Photo by Fab Lentz on Unsplash

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