Know How: The 8 skills that separate people who perform from those who don't
By Ram Charan
The Substance of Successful Leaders
Know-how is what separates leaders who perform-who deliver results-from those who don't. It is the hallmark of people who know what they are doing, those who build long term intrinsic value and hit short-term targets.
What gets in the way of finding people who can perform is the appearance of leadership. All too often I see people being chosen for leadership jobs on the basis of superficial personal traits and characteristics, such as:
The seduction of raw intelligence: "He's extremely bright, incisive, and very analytical. I just feel in my gut he can do the job."
A commanding presence and great communication skills: "That presentation was awesome. How she ever boiled down all that data onto the PowerPoints is beyond me. She certainly had the committee in the palm of her hand. Mark my words, she's going to the top."
The power of a bold vision: "What a picture he painted of where we are going, moving forward."
The notion of a born leader: "The people in the unit love her. Such a morale builder and motivator!"
Certainly intelligence, self-confidence, presence, the ability to communicate, and having a vision are important. But being highly intelligent doesn't mean that a person has the knack for making good business judgments. How many times have you seen people confidently making decisions that turn out to be disastrous? How often have you heard a vision that turned out to be nothing more than rhetoric and hot air?
Personal attributes are just one small slice of the leadership pie, and their value is greatly diminished without know-how, the eight interrelated skills that bring leadership into the realm of profit and loss.
We need leaders who know what they are doing. Change is always with us, but its current magnitude, speed, and depth is unlike what most readers of this book have experienced in their lifetime. A Google can come from nowhere and grow into a multibillion-dollar business in a few short years, becoming one of the world's most highly valued companies. There are not only huge opportunities but also great pitfalls that can swallow up whole companies and industries. Think for a moment about the challenges Google has presented to companies in the advertising, broadcasting, and publishing industries, to name just a few. World-class competitors can now emerge from anywhere-witness the wave of emerging nation players that have clear advantages in their industries-thanks to mobility of talent, capital, and knowledge.
You will be constantly tested for your know-how and lead your business in the right direction. Will you be able to do the right things, make the right decisions, deliver results, and leave your business and the people in it better off than they were before?
Can you position your business by finding the central idea that meets customer demands and makes money? And, as will increasingly be required, can you appropriately reposition it?
Are you able to pinpoint external change by detecting patterns ahead of others and put your business on the offensive?
Do you know how to lead the social system of your business by getting the right people together with the right behaviors to make better, faster decisions and achieve business results?
Can you judge people by finding their best talents based on facts and observations and matching them with a job?
Are you molding a team by getting highly competent leaders to submerge their egos and coordinate seamlessly?
Do you know how to develop goals by balancing what the business can become with what it can realistically achieve, not merely looking in the rear-view mirror and making incremental adjustments to what's been done before?
Can you set laser-sharp priorities by defining the specific tasks that align resources, actions, and energy to accomplish the goals?
Can you deal with forces beyond the market by creatively and positively responding to societal pressures you don't control but that significantly impact your business?
Command of these know-hows enables you to diagnose any situation and take appropriate action, lifting you out of your comfort zone of expertise by developing skills that prepare you to do what the situation requires, not just what you've traditionally been good at.
The know-hows do not, however, stand alone. There are a million things that can block human beings from making sound judgments and taking effective action. That's where personal traits, psychology, and emotions enter the leadership picture. But instead of trying to define and adopt the ideal set of personal traits, it's more useful to focus on a simple question: How does your personal psychology and cognitive ability affect the way you cultivate and use the know-hows? For example, the know-how of detecting the patterns of external change might be affected by your ability to connect the dots and whether at heart you are an optimist or pessimist.
Know-How is about what you must both do and be to lead your business in what is shaping up to be the most challenging business environment in decades. It plants business leadership squarely on a foundation of profit and loss, capi- tal utilization, resource allocation, productivity, and customer satisfaction while never losing sight of the fact that leaders are human beings.
© Ram Charan
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