High-Potential Leaders & Building Partnerships
by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions
High-performing leaders need to know how to partner, both internally and externally, to manage the on-going changes in the business environment.
A survey, asking high-potential leaders describe today’s ideal leader, produced an unequivocal result – an ideal leader is a person who builds internal and external partnerships.
Internal partnerships include direct reports, co-workers, and managers. External partnerships include customers, suppliers, and competitors.
Inside the Organisation
1. Partnering with Direct Reports.
Organizations no longer provide employees with job security. As job security has diminished so has employee loyalty. High-performers see themselves as “free agents”, able and willing to move to those who will cater to their needs for personal growth and development. Leaders here need to develop a “win-win” relationship with these high-performers and to be their partner rather than their boss.
This is especially true when managing knowledge workers, where managers know less of what is being done than their reports. If you don’t partner these people then you won’t have them.
2. Partnering with co-workers.
Successful leaders will share people, capital, and ideas to break down boundaries:
- Share people – so that the leader can develop the expertise and breadth needed to manage;
- Share capital – so that mature business can transfer funds to high-growth business; and
- Share ideas – so that people can learn from both successes and mistakes.
These are difficult to do, especially when areas may have to suffer a short-term loss to allow the organization to benefit in the longer- term. It requires leaders to collaborate and be skilled in negotiating and to create “win-win” relationships.
3. Partnering with managers.
The changing role of leadership will mean that the relationship between managers and direct reports will have to change in both directions. Leaders will need to be partners leading in a network, not managers leading in a hierarchy. Leaders need to collaborate as a team and combine the leader’s knowledge of unit operations with the manager’s understanding of larger needs. Such a relationship requires taking responsibility, sharing information, and striving to see both the micro and macro perspective. When direct reports know more than their managers, they have to learn how to “influence up.”
Outside the Organisation
1. Partnering with customers.
Customers are now buying solutions and systems for delivery that are customized to meet their needs to meet their needs. Many customers now want “network solutions,” not just hardware and software.
Leaders from supply organizations will need to become more like partners and less like salespeople. This trend toward building long-term customer relationships, not just achieving short-term sales, means that suppliers need to develop a much deeper understanding of the customer’s total business. They will need to make many small sacrifices to achieve a large gain. In short, they will need to act like partners.
2. Partnering with suppliers.
As the shift toward integrated solutions advances, leaders will have to change their relationship with suppliers. Many leaders now realise that their success is directly related to their supplier’s success. As such they now make a commitment to their suppliers as part of their joint focus on serving the end user of the product or service.
3. Partnering with competitors.
The most radical change in the role of leader as partner has come in partnering with competitors. Most high-potential leaders see competitors as potential customers, suppliers, and partners. When today’s competitors may become tomorrow’s customers, the definition of “winning” changes.
These six trends toward more partnering are mutually reinforcing. As people feel less job security, they begin to see suppliers, customers and competitors as potential employers. Leaders need to learn about these organisations, create “win-win” relationships and build long-term relationships,
What are you doing to do build partnerships in your strategy, direction and actions?
John Donne put it very eloquently:
“No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main”.
Are you looking to work alone, or do you see yourself as part of a greater whole and a greater opportunity?
Thanks to Marshall Goldsmith whose work provided the basis for much of this article.
Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions