Leadership & Empowerment – Looking Back (Part #6) – Weekend Reflections for Leaders: November 10, 2018

The intent of the next several Weekend Reflections for Leaders is to share some learnings from my journey of leaving a successful career with a great multi-national, life science company to learn and grow in the high growth (and high risk) mid-stage and early-stage life science marketplace. Over the last decade, I led a few companies to successful exits and also experienced a few very painful failures.

Here is a summary of the last few weeks of Looking Back:

Part #1: Guiding Principles.

Part #2: Risk Taking and the Value of Failure:

Part #3: Teamwork:   

Part #4: Inspiration:

Part #5: Energy & Focus:

The basic principles of leadership and empowerment are foundational to building a great business whether it is a large multi-national company or 2 people sitting around a table in a local coffee shop with an idea for the next big thing.

From a leadership perspective, there is a vital need to clearly define the intent of the business, develop specific objectives to accomplish, assign accountability for the work, and then consistently overcommunicate the plan. In addition, being thoughtful to spend the time necessary to define what is the problem in the market we are trying to solve, clearly describing why there is a great calling to solve the problem and outlining an agreed upon set of principles about how we should behave are all essential for large and small businesses alike. 

From an empowerment perspective, the need for leaders of big and small organizations to say, “I trust you with this project, go for it” is important for not just efficiency, but for creating an environment where people feel they will be supported, control their own destiny, and reach their full potential. Many times, management layers required for approvals, underlying mistrust, large egos, and power struggles can create an unhealthy environment for people genuinely trying to apply their talents to accomplish goals for the business. 

There are numerous similarities of effective leadership and empowerment with large and small companies. Below are just a few:

There are often dramatic differences in the techniques needed to effectively execute on these methods to lead and empower teams when looking at large companies compared to small entrepreneurial ventures.

The first difference is in the time and manner in which leadership and empowerment can be accurately assessed.

In a small entrepreneurial endeavor, it is often very quick to assess whether the critical elements are being achieved. There is the environment of urgency that helps put the issues on the table quickly as either the business can collapse or a customer (and you may only have one) will walk away. With small teams it is very clear to assess who is delivering and who is not.

In large companies, it often takes a painstaking, time-consuming cultural assessment to try and get at some of the underlying issues that maybe holding the company back from reaching its full potential. Many times, there is the admirable effort to define a Mission, Vision, and Values framework and the communication tools are well thought-out and put in place. However, the “I’ve seen this before” “Don’t worry it will blow over with a new management team once we don’t hit our numbers” attitude, the passive-aggressive hallway meetings after the real meeting, or the internal politics and power struggles that can derail the most noble of efforts to align a large company on a purposeful mission and a plan to deliver on it. 

The second difference is in the time, effort, bandwidth, and continual improvement required for leaders to execute effectively in their roles.

In my own journey in leading teams in large companies and leading small entrepreneurial efforts, the task of executing effective leadership and empowerment is much greater in a large company than a small entrepreneurial effort. The organizational complexity, competing priorities, cultural norms and practices, etc., make senior executives in large companies spend a tremendous amount of time thinking, planning, and implementing effective processes to ensure they are pulling all the effective levers to lead and empower their teams to deliver. This time and effort are critical for senior executives in large organizations to lead effectively, but it also highlights the importance of empowering highly talented teams to get the work done of running the business and executing on the plan.        

Even though the principles of leadership and empowerment are similar in large and small organizations, the challenge to achieve organizational alignment around the critical aspects of the business are most significant for today’s senior executives and top talent in large multi-national companies. One way that today’s top leaders stay ahead in addressing these challenges is to seek out a trusted advisor, often outside the organization, to reach their full potential.

What if I were to ask you, “What is the most difficult leadership challenge you are facing today?” What would you say?

Here are a few resources to help:

  1. Download FREE resources at www.harvesttimepartners.com
  2. Contact me. Email: david@harvesttimepartners.com (M) 269-370-9275

David Esposito

Female manager stands addressing team at board meeting

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