Today’s Smart leaders have two simultaneous ways of thinking, two seemingly contrary points of view. While most find that perplexing they find it ordinary. It is a multidimensional approach to viewing opportunities through lens supported by both tangible evidence, the first dimension and intangible capabilities, the second dimension.
Smarter leaders understand that some things are predictable, measurable and thus allow for forecasting the future results. On the other hand they also know that innovation, change and creativity are less predictable and less definable. The Smart leaders understand both approaches are equally important and they, and their entire organization, are able to run in both dimensions at the same time.
The First Dimension
Many organizations are led by one-dimensional thinking. Call it the first dimension, the emphasis is”what gets measured gets done” and out of that thinking came management by results, KPI’s, the world of statistics, measurement, rigor and process improvement which was all about controlling, predicting and improving outcomes, results.
These management methods placed heavy emphasis on managing the tangible things that could be counted, scored, evaluated, compared and benchmarked so that a male dominated business environment could keep track of who scored the most points at the end of the game. The rewards for winning were fat bonuses for the generals, big dividends for the stockholders, less than 7% increases for the employees and a thank you note to all the other stakeholders. The customers got a promise for improved products and better service next year. The old media applauded the results and propagated the promises.
Then the next year started and the game began all over with new targets to reach, higher expectations of productivity, lower supplier cost, new products to reach into new markets and deeper revenue streams from existing customers. After all, what gets measured gets done. Nothing wrong with this picture or is there?
The Second Dimension
The truth of any situation is not always empirical. A Smart Leader knows that there are always two “truths,” an empirical truth and an intuitive or uncertain truth. Both are critical and one without the other is simply an incomplete picture.
This second dimension is the recognition that you cannot substitute leadership with measurement. The leadership piece is critical because the system causes outcomes, not people. And no matter how well you might measure things, you have to lead the system to change the outcomes. Failure to lead is now transparent because people are tired of hiding the lack of leadership and the manipulation of data for selfish gains. People respect smart leadership.
Businesses and organizations have tended to co-opt the empirical side – the control side – and simply ignore the less tangible, softer side. Consequently, managing the intangibles has been ignored, just as innovation deployments fail more often than not today. But again the internet and all things social has pulled back the curtain and now made the intangibles tangible..
Smart Leaders understand that the intangible side is as important as the tangible. Combining these two dimensions – a deep understanding of the power of the tangible and a deep understanding of the power of the intangible – is what will lead us to smarter leadership practices.