Leading Through Uncertainty (Part III – Guiding Principles) – Weekend Reflections for Leaders: April 13, 2019

The next few Weekend Reflections for Leaders are focused on the topic of Leading Through Uncertainty. I had the privilege in March to speak to a group of executives in San Francisco on the topic of Leading Through Uncertainty. There was a tremendous amount of interest in the topic, and I wanted to share components of my talk over the next several Weekend Reflections for Leaders.

Part I (Reality Check) and Part II (Purpose).

Today’s topic is on the importance of Guiding Principles.

As we face the reality of a hyper-competitive marketplace and an uncertain future, the importance of building a business with a set of universal and timeless guiding principles becomes essential. When, not if, the tremendous pressure to deliver high growth results, exceed customer expectations, and keep team members energized and engaged gets to a breaking point, a set of guiding principles helps leaders and teams from sliding off the rails.

Guiding principles, or values, guide individuals and teams in how we should treat each other, our customers, and fulfill our responsibility to the marketplace and the communities we impact. Clearly defining the importance of principles like respect, trustworthiness, teamwork, innovation, quality, and kindness form not only the foundation, but create the guardrails to build a business that can effectively handle the inevitable cycles of tremendous success and painful failure without destroying itself from within.

Guiding principles, along with behavioral examples that are set by leaders, consistently highlighted through influential communications and meaningful consequences, begin to build a culture that is healthy and sustainable for the long term.

We don’t need a PhD in business ethics to recall the numerous examples in the marketplace of when leaders routinely made choices that went directly against timeless principles like respect and honesty. Before we quickly pass judgment on the missteps of others while we sit in some sterile classroom environment or management training program, we should genuinely acknowledge a few of the significant pressures that existing in leading a business in today’s world.

  • Consistently delivering high growth financial performance to support numerous high-pressure stakeholders can have a vice grip like intensity on leaders.
  • The potential for a personal, life-changing payout with the successful sale of a business in the world of early-mid stage venture capital funded businesses can cloud the judgment of leaders.
  • The marketplace is complex and many times the stories we read about are written with simple sound bites that never tell the full story on the magnitude and the complexity leaders were trying to address.

Even with the above examples, leaders who build teams and a business with a clear set of guiding principles, will more times than not, establish the guardrails to keep teams moving forward in an effective direction even in times of incredible uncertainty. Guiding principles act as a compass when we are leading through the “fog of war” in the marketplace, when we have just been caught off guard with a competitive threat, or when some personal behavior of a key leader comes to light or when there is a sudden legal or regulatory challenge to the operation of the business.

Guiding principles help leaders maintain their footing and keep teams marching forward to fulfill the purpose of the business regardless of how uncertain our future looks at this present moment.

As senior executives and the top talent on their teams work hard to drive growth in a challenging and often uncertain future, it is critical that they set the example by modeling behaviors consistent with timeless and universal principles in ordered to guide teams to deliver on today’s goals and prepare for a brighter future. (the image in this article highlights the guiding principles our team developed at Armune BioScience)

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 YOU:

  1. Download FREE resources at www.harvesttimepartners.com
  2. Contact me. Email: david@harvesttimepartners.com (M) 269-370-9275
  3. Check out my latest book, Looking Back-What I Learned When I Left a Great Company, for helpful insights on leadership, building a great business, and winning the war on top talent.

David Esposito