The Context that Top Leaders Navigate

The Context that Top Leaders Navigate
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Do You Know the Context that Top Leaders Navigate to Succeed?
No business leader operates in a vacuum. Leadership success or failure is part of and dependent upon several contextual drivers that surround them — the ecosystem, the organizational strategy, the culture, the organization’s attitude toward change, and the internal and external stakeholders they must serve. Yes, leaders can have an effect on any one of these drivers but, when all is said and done, they are impacted by their environmental circumstances. Ultimately the context top leaders navigate to succeed separates them from their peers.

There is a direct link between the overall business context and the capabilities, experience and style a leader will need in order to be effective. If you define the business challenge with care, you can better understand the qualities a leader will need to succeed within its context.

Top Leaders Successfully and Simultaneously Navigate 5 Contexts
Here, one by one, are the critical factors in a business’ success that top leaders know how to understand, navigate, and learn from to succeed:

  1. The Overall Ecosystem
    Often covered in the beginning of leadership action learning programs, think of the ecosystem as the overall external market conditions that have a direct or indirect impact on the business. Top leaders know how to scan the business horizon for developments that could affect their organization.

    Porter’s 5 forces of (1) Competition in the industry, (2) Potential of new entrants into the industry, (3) Power of suppliers, (4) Power of customers, and (5) Threat of substitute products provides a good ecosystem framework for analyzing a company’s competitive environment and positioning. 

    Regardless of the framework, we know from our leadership simulation assessment data that top leaders invest the time to conduct a strategic SWOT analysis to see where they stand.  These strategic assumptions are then used to design a relevant and realistic strategic plan for success.

    Do your leaders understand the macro- and micro-environments in which they are leading?
  2. The Business Strategy
    We know from our organizational alignment research that strategic clarity accounts for 31% of difference between high and low performance in terms of: revenue growth, profitability, customer loyalty, leadership effectiveness, and employee engagement.  We also know that an organization’s strategy must make sense with the overall ecosystem and be fully understood and supported by those responsible for executing it.

    The best leaders make sure the corporate strategy is clear enough, believable enough, and implementable enough to get desired results in a way that makes sense.  They actively involve employees in the strategy design and planning phases to increase ownership, accountability, and buy in. This creates a clear line of sight for everyone to contribute.

    Can your leaders and their teams clearly articulate your strategic plan for success?
  3. The Corporate Culture
    Top leaders care a great deal about workplace culture. Because strategies must go through people and culture to be successfully executed, they invest the time required to assess the current organizational culture to see where things stand.

    The goal is create a corporate culture that is healthy enough, high performing enough, and strategically aligned enough to help move the strategy forward in a way that makes sense.

    Do your leaders know how to build a high performing culture for people to perform at their peak?
  4. The Readiness for Change
    The best leaders know that they cannot foresee all the challenges of doing business. But if they and their teams are flexible and can adjust to a new challenges and disruptions, they have a much better chance to survive unexpected threats and to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.

    Are your leaders creating high enough levels of change readiness for their teams?
  5. The Key Stakeholders
    Last but not least, top leaders need to be able to navigate the changing and growing needs and expectations of those who have influence over and are affected by key strategic initiatives — their employees, customers, investors, etc. They map out stakeholder expectations and needs and treat them accordingly.

    Have your leaders and their teams mapped out the expectations and needs of their key stakeholders?

The Bottom Line
A thorough understanding of the business context in which they operate allows top leaders to perform at their best and have the greatest positive impact on the organization’s success. Have you considered the context that top leaders navigate? Have you looked lately at the context around you to test for any weak points?

To learn more about how to develop high performing leaders, download The Top Skills for High Performing Leaders

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