Creating exceptional performance through strong leadership

Strong leadership is a requirement For Performance And okr frameworks to be sustainable

In ancient times poets and songwriters engraved the achievements of leaders in people’s minds. Currently, social media and several other platforms share the deeds or statements of leaders across the globe. OKR frameworks albeit an excellent performance catalysts are not enough by themselves to ensure sustainable performance.

Both the presence of strong leadership and the absence thereof have several consequences to it,  those consequences have been experienced by all in some shape or form and are displayed, enjoyed, or suffered in public.

Still, if it was such a simple matter of first defining what a leader is and secondly actually being a leader then everyone would be one. Countless attempts are made across the globe to create more leaders, through courses,  programs, and mentorship. 

Leadership theory is relatively easy to understand but the practical application of leadership principles is no simple matter. Probably a majority of people in the business world will agree that strong and effective leadership is a requirement for sustainable success.

Leadership and sustainable performance

Google attributes its success not only to OKR frameworks but also to strong leadership and a values-based culture. Any Isolated attempts to improve performance, for example, a sole focus on OKRs or other performance frameworks are likely to fail as this method is ignorant of the fact that there are many elements to sustainable performance.

‘ A great person attracts great people and knows how to hold them together ‘

Johan Wolfgang von Goethe

As we embark on the journey to make a future desired state a reality several obstacles occur, some of them are external forces such as sudden changes in the market and some are internal company cultural issues.

Within some circles of the human resources fraternity the ‘post covid era’ has been labeled ‘the great resign’ as more and more people evaluate the impact of their jobs on society and how their jobs affect their well-being and mental health.

Reciprocity has become a focal point – Generally speaking, people will only care about a company if the company truly cares about them. It has become totally unrealistic to expect people to care about the company’s vision and purpose if the company does not care about the individuals’ personal vision and personal purpose.

Decades ago public leadership and human resources focussed speakers and writers were already adamant in their discourses on ‘seeking first to understand before seeking to be understood and talking profusely on ‘soft skills such as communication and coaching to support employees in their personal development and career paths. You can be perfect at goal setting and drafting perfect OKR frameworks but the right communication and culture have to be present in support of performance.

It is easy to talk about these matters it is another matter to ensure practical application of it. Egos’, fears, challenges, misunderstandings, biases, and entitlement are but a few of a long list of high hurdles that looms large in front of the concept of sustainable achievement.

In the context of the above I would like to define leadership as:

A practical demonstration of the wisdom to galvanize and inspire people around a shared vision, purpose, and value system and to achieve together.

Sustainable performance, broadly speaking is about strong servant leadership, company culture, and managing aspirational performance frameworks.

Which Wolf will you feed the most?

According to Neuroscience, the average human being has around 50 000 thoughts per day of which 70% are negative. Negative thoughts amplify egos’, fears, challenges, biases, and entitlement.

True and strong servant leaders in general are optimists. Being an optimist does not have to mean that you have to deny the negative, you simply choose to focus more on the positive and to find the most effective solutions possible for the negative.

Buddhist teachers have compared the human mind to a wild monkey, rapidly running and aimlessly changing direction. That is the condition of the human mind until it is controlled – And only you can control your own mind no one can or will ever do it for you.

For the sake of illustration, let’s call one ‘wolf’ positive and another negative, and both ‘wolves’ are alive within your mind. These two wolves are facing each other in a final battle. Who will win? The answer is simple – The one that you feed the most.

True servant leaders feed the ‘positive wolf’ the most yet do not deny that there is an existing battle between the two wolves.

The Leadership mindset.

How you wake up is largely determined by how you went to sleep the previous night (with a positive, calm, and relaxed mind or with a troubled and negative mind).  A growing number of leadership, mindset, and performance ‘gurus’ are teaching a morning ritual.

I, too strongly recommend a morning ritual to focus the mind, but a stronger recommendation is to have an evening ritual to ensure calm, positivity, and relaxation. Morning rituals do not matter much if you wake u with an overwhelmed and negative mind.

I also recommend that you tailor-make your rituals to what you actually enjoy and not force yourself to do things that you hate first thing in the morning or before going to bed. I only offer flexible and simplified guidelines here:

* Do not allow your evening and morning rituals to become a ‘time burden’ 10 – 20 minutes is enough.

* Do one thing that calms your mind, whatever that is, it could be meditation, prayer, listening to music, reading, breathing exercises, etc, for a few minutes in the evening before bed and in the morning.

* Do one thing in the morning that activates blood circulation, this could be a few push-ups, a bit of Yoga, or boxing a punching bag for a few minutes. This is not about exercise for increased fitness and losing weight this is purely to activate the ‘feel good hormones in the body.

* Focus the mind in the morning, before engaging in your normal habits such as making your coffee or breakfast I encourage leaders that I coach to either deeply listen to a recording of their personal and company vision, purpose, values, OKR frameworks, and visualize it as clearly as possible.

Strong leaders have a growth mindset and stretch their minds, skills, and people toward achievement. Join our OKR Leader course here to gain practical knowledge on leading the implementation of OKR frameworks:

Join our OKR performance family

Leaders are masters of questions aligned to collaboration.

A servant leader asks herself the question – How can I best serve my people today? Frequently. Servant leader supports and coaches their people and does not command and control their team members.

What is it that I need to do to best support you? is a good question to ask those who you coach. How can we work together to achieve this? is another.

Does this argument mean that servant leaders are ‘walkovers’ and easy to manipulate? No, most certainly not- a true servant leader will not negotiate the value system of the company and will ‘leave the table when respect is no longer served’.

Strong Leaders are insatiable learners

Leaders never stop learning, even from failure, and know that the tireless application of learning will ultimately result in wisdom.

Therein lies the challenge – A common portrayal of leaders is as excellent orators, but you learn nothing when you speak, you only learn when you truly listen. Asking well-formulated questions induces an answer, and the answer is a valuable source of learning material should you wish it to be.

A vision, future-directed objectives, values, and purpose are the ‘healthy obsessions’ of a servant leader.

True inspiration comes from something higher than the self. A true servant leader holds a vision, future-directed objectives, values, and purpose to the highest possible regard and holds herself accountable to it as a standard before anybody else even thinks of holding them accountable.

Read more on what the Harvard business review opines on what makes a great leader:

Talent Development Director of the OKR Institute