The Two MOST Important Leadership Imperatives

Posted On: October 28

defining-it-project-successWhen I think about the key things that the people in an organization look for from their leader, there is a fairly long list, but at the top of that list are two things that are absolutely essential. The first is: Honesty. The single most important thing that people look for in a leader they would willingly follow is someone who will tell them the truth, who exhibits unquestioned integrity, who is a living example of the values they espouse and speaks with candor and transparency. If a leader is not honest, nothing else matters.

The next most important thing is what I’d like to discuss in this blog, it is the core of building a successful organization and unfortunately many leaders do not do a fully adequate job of embracing the second imperative which is creating…

  • A sharply focused and well-communicated vision, values and strategy for growth.

Please take a second and re-read that sentence, it’s only a few words but they are all extremely important.

Sharply Focused

This means being highly specific and totally clear about exactly WHAT the organization stands for, WHERE it is going and HOW you will get there. In addition, it also means you need to be highly clear and specific about what you will NOT be doing, what is NOT core, the customers you do NOT want to serve, the parts of the market you will NOT compete in and especially what sort of behaviors will NEVER be tolerated within the organization. A huge part of being an effective leader is figuring out when and where to say “No.”


Here is the key: you cannot over-communicate the vision, values or strategy – it is impossible to talk about this stuff to much. In one-on-ones, group meetings, town halls, annual reviews, in the newsletter, in emails, via voice mail, on screen savers… over and over again communicating a clear consistent message about the vision, values and strategy.

Vision and Values

The vision is a clear, vivid and compelling statement of WHERE the leader is trying to take the organization and the values are set of strongly held beliefs and social mores about HOW the people in the organization will behave along the way.

Strategy for Growth

Another simple but powerful statement…all effective strategy is:

Valued Differentiation x Execution

In other words, you must bring something unique and highly compelling to your target market and then be able to execute with discipline in delivering that value proposition consistently.

If you bring a “me too” product to the market then you will have to sell on price, and there’s always someone willing to drop their price and go out of business faster than you. If you bring something unique, but it is not highly valued by your customer…that’s called bankruptcy. And if you bring something that’s unique and compelling, but cannot execute on it, that’s also called bankruptcy. So you need all three: unique, compelling and executable.

So let me end by going back to the beginning… to be a truly effective and successful leader you must demonstrate integrity and honesty, while sharing a sharply focused and well-communicated vision, values and strategy for growth.

Sounds easy when I put it that way, but I assure you this is one of the most challenging jobs of every leader.

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