The number one thing our clients request when working with us is training on being better leaders. And they are not alone. Organizations in the U.S. alone spend upwards of $14 billion annually on training their employees to be leaders. Yet, somehow, most of these leadership programs fail to deliver on their promise: access to being a leader.
Why? Because if you try to be a leader, your attention will be on acting like a leader (looking the part) rather than being a leader, which comes from a place of purpose.
One of the most powerful examples of effective leadership is my mentor Lynne Twist, a serial non-profit founder, pro-activist, and author, who raised hundreds of millions for philanthropic causes. She worked alongside iconic world leaders like Mother Teresa, Buckminster Fuller, Maya Angelou, and the Dalai Lama, to name a few.
When I interviewed her recently for my podcast Unmessable, she pointed out something important about getting access to leadership. "When you take a stand with your life, what comes through you is a level of effectiveness, inspiration, and I'll call it guidance that one doesn't even know is possible," Twist says. "You stop living your life, your little life starring you, and you live your stand. Archimedes said, 'Give me a place to stand and I'll move the world.'"
The most successful and inspiring leaders take a stand for something purposeful. What is something you could explore taking on that is bigger than you or the role you are playing in your business? Diversity? Performance breakthrough? Empowering culture?
Whatever it is, if you take a stand for something purposeful it will move you powerfully into action, or, in other words, effective leading.
My team and I have worked with more than 10,000 senior business leaders across companies big and small, and there are two breakout moments that stick out when someone took a stand for a bigger purpose and altered the course of the company's destiny.
1. Taking a stand to transform an entire company that's set in its ways.
My firm once worked with a CEO to get clear on his stand, after being appointed to lead a nearly century-old publicly traded company. We teased out what he saw was impossible to achieve in terms of performance and dove into analyzing what was in the way of making the impossible possible. From here, his stand was born: transform this institutionalized company and realize the unimaginable.
As a small business owner, if you've purchased an old company rather than starting one from scratch, you'll need to focus on discovering what is possible rather than what has been predictable.
As we did with this CEO, you need to make sure you have the right people in place to help you lead the transformation and make sure they are all fully committed to drive the needle on performance.
For this company, we brought 300 key employees together over 20 work sessions in a period of four months to harmonize the mindset and initiate coordinated actions among the leadership teams. You can do the same on a smaller scale. Set regular work sessions where you focus on mindset meld and then create a list of action steps to follow through on your vision.
Fast forward three years, the company we worked with doubled revenue, profitability, and share price. What took nearly a century to build was matched in three years.
2. Taking a stand for all-around business mastery.
When we were brought in to work with a major real estate investment trust, our focus was on the newly appointed COO wanted to turnaround the company's sluggish performance from an investment standpoint and bring it to the top of its industry.
To begin, we brought the senior team together to explore what would it look like to be top in the category? And what was getting in the way? For this company it started with the cynicism in the room. When you're attempting a major change that can't seem to get off the ground, go to your team and identify whether their fears or cynicism is holding them back, and therefore holding back the growth of your business. Then, address those fears head on.
Once the senior team we worked with were aligned with the COO's stand, we worked downstream to get everyone on board with the mission. You will need to do this too, whether you have 10 employees or 100.
The company we worked with realized a $10.2 billion increase in shareholder value, and it was later acquired for upwards of $30 billion.
When you take a stand for something truly purposeful to you, a worthy challenge that scares you but makes you bigger, you find the strength that propels you powerfully into action. True leadership starts with your stand.