The six essential areas of institutional leadership

Leading institutions is another dimension that determines the quality of executive leadership. Other relevant dimensions were self-leadership, leadership in one-to-one relationships and team leadership.

All of these dimensions feed back into one another in a way that can be virtuous or vicious; it all depends on the relative weight of the positive and negative aspects that stack up in these four dimensions. Perhaps this explains the abundance of greatness and evil among leaders.

Anyone who adds the positive elements and subtracts the negative elements in the four dimensions of leadership will see the effectiveness of their work exponentially multiplied. It is no secret that leadership capabilities are effective in such seemingly different contexts as work or family relationships.

The most important legacy of institutional leadership is the sustainability of the institution’s health over time. The ingredients of institutional leadership that we pay the most attention to are the clarity of ideas, the ability to communicate those ideas to the organization and the creation of incentive systems aimed at aligning the work of managers with the institution over the long term.

This article is centered on the obligation of leaders to bring focus and clarity of ideas to their organizations.

Underlying the clarity of ideas in institutional leadership is the ability to achieve a synthesis between seemingly opposing concepts, such as numbers and people, or the realities of the market with the capabilities of the institution. The synthesis of opposites generates stability and progress.

This clarity of ideas also presupposes the mastery of skills that enable the creation of a more prestigious brand, improved attractiveness of the offering, innovation management, the creation of cultures that promote the advancement of people, the design of efficient organizational processes and systems, etc.

A good executive team is not only diverse, but must also be unified around a core set of ideas and approaches. The objective of institutional leadership is precisely to create clarity and cohesion around that nucleus of foundational ideas for the joint project.

A joint project for an executive team — no matter how diverse the team may be — should be based on the convergence of ideas and feelings about six areas. These areas, expressed in the form of questions, are as follows:

What would the world lose if this institution ceased to exist? This question raises the need to generate a sense of purpose that allows people to work for more than just money. It is a call for an air of greatness to be infused into the task and the purpose of the institution. We know that greatness and misery are often mutually exclusive. We need to infuse greatness to reduce the misery we all tend towards.

  • What are the behaviors we want and don’t want in this institution? The more explicit the answer, the better for everyone. Clear ideas about behaviors and values generate expectations that, at the same time, encourage those behaviors and values.
  • What scope of activities do we want to put the focus on and which ones do we not want to be present for? The answer to this question is highly strategic, and therefore allows for a certain degree of change and opportunism when necessary. In any case, and even if it is for a rather brief period, it is vital to be explicit about the priority business areas and those that fall outside the strategic purpose.
  • What are the key success factors for this company in the current market circumstances and those that can be predictable? The answer to this question could lead to a very healthy, in-depth strategic debate. An executive team has a duty to identify these factors and strive to improve their metrics.
  • What are the key transformational projects currently under way at the institution? The answer, once again, aims to have executives transcend what may be important for their specific area and also focus on projects considered important to the institution.
  • Which people have been given the responsibility of executing the major transformational projects for the institution? The knowledge of those in charge of the projects is an indirect way of requesting support from the rest of the team and giving them greater informal authority.

The experience everyone has is that we appreciate being given focus and clarity with respect to our duties.

One duty of institutional leadership is to encourage the process to generate that clarity and adapt to the changing market circumstances.

The sustainability of institutions demands the creation of teams that are diverse yet unified around the fundamental ideas about the purpose, values, scope of activities, key factors for success, transformational projects and those responsible.

The clarity of ideas of institutional leadership also means decisions on the use of capital, people management and the distribution of executive time are made with the utmost professionalism and discipline.