March 11, 2019

Leadership Is More Art Than Science. It's Never Too Late to Be What You Might Have Been

Nancy Steiger

Nancy Steiger
President/Nancy Steiger Consulting

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If you’re a member of a governing board or a c-level executive, you’ve no doubt faced the difficult decision of whether or not you need to “make a change.”  You’ve likely agonized over the decision and lost a little sleep too.

Take heart, you’re not alone. It simply means you care deeply for the people you lead as well as the people they lead.  Before you make the decision to “make a change,” I encourage you to think differently.  Here are a few reasons why…

1.    There is a shortage of quality senior level leaders as Boomers retire and next gen leaders are challenged to take the reins before they are fully ready.

2.    Hiring a new c-suite leader is complicated and costly. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the cost of replacing an employee ranges between six to nine months of that person’s salary. The costs of replacing a c-suite level leader can be much higher.


CEO hiring cost => 9 month’s salary


3.    The costs are more than just financial. It’s proven there is a significant loss of productivity and morale across the organization as well as disruption to the strategic plan, mission and relationship building (customers, partners, employees, donors) of the organization.  Not to mention, the impact of the departure on other leaders who become unsettled by the change.  

4.    And even after a new leader is hired, the success or failure of that new leadership will remain uncertain for months and possibly years ahead.

Did you know that most executive terminations are the result of leadership issues versus competence? Don’t get me wrong, every c-suite leader should know how to do the job and do it well, but when you dig deep into most terminations, it isn’t about their understanding of the technical skills that result in a leadership change – it’s about the leader’s ability to lead from a place of expression of creativity combined with skill, imagination, and integrity.  That’s the essence of Art.

I truly believe leadership is more art than science.

So often we look at senior leadership with a formula in mind: Goals + Strategy + Planning + Implementation = Success.

If things were only so simple. Ask any board member or CEO who is thinking about a leadership change and they will most likely tell you it’s about leadership style and/or leadership effectiveness.  The fact remains, the art of leadership is about creating followership.  You must win the hearts and minds of the people you lead.  Once you’ve done that, your teams are ready to lean in and help you achieve your mission, vision and values.

You must win the hearts and minds of the people you lead. 

I often have the privilege of working with a young CEOs and other c-suite executives who are struggling. Their organizations are facing a variety of issues from operational performance, engagement, quality concerns to public relations crises. Often times, their organizational Boards or CEOS are unclear how to address the concerns.  The shortest path to addressing concerns could have been to change senior leadership.  But Boards that are committed to navigating challenges by developing the c-suite often navigate challenges successfully.  I provided one-on-one personal leadership coaching and strategy development with the c-suite in each incident.  We never focus on one or the other, but how they work together – the integration of leadership, management, and inspiration.  

Tough times are not over for these clients, but I’m confident the senior leadership is better equipped to navigate the organization’s challenges.  Not because of me, but because the Board, CEO and senior leadership embraced change and approached their leadership with a renewed sense of creativity, positivity, clear direction and vision.  The strategy and operations were there, but the leadership wasn’t…. until now!

Comments? You can contact me directly via my AdvisoryCloud profile.

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