Leadership View #11: Hardest Task

2013 06-23 iStock_000010450125XSmallLeadership View #11:

Hardest task – changing your leadership and management styles as your company grows or you go up the ladder. 

I often hear entrepreneurs say, “I don’t want to lose the culture as I grow this company” or “We are like a family, I want to keep this feeling as we grow”. And yet as the company grows the culture inevitably changes and the owner no longer knows the name and the family of every employee.

And, what the company needs as it moves from “go-go” to “prime” (to quote Vistage speaker Gerry Faust) is for the leader to change.

In the go-go period, everyone is equal and it is all about getting the job done, getting the orders out, meeting the customer needs. Typically the owner is the chief sales officer and innovator. And, then as a company adds more people and moves to prime, management becomes necessary and terms like “building a leadership team” come into play.

Suddenly the owner is thrust into a role of CEO and has people reporting to him or her who are focused on their own career path. These key executives want the opportunity to innovate and have an impact themselves. And, the CEO while still expected to define the vision, must also become a coach and mentor, allowing others to grow and develop as leaders.

At the same time, the folks who came to the company as experts and doers are often expected to become managers. And those that came to “manage” are expected to become leaders. The best operations manager who succeeded because he or she can implement processes must learn to think like an owner and take a broad view. These new roles and new ways of thinking require new behaviors as well.

Those that are able to change are those rare few that build and lead the less than 1% of companies >$100mm in revenue.

Elisa K. Spain