Leadership in Action
To truly grasp how to effectively realise these respective roles in practise, this article illuminates how successful executives understand these roles, showcases their successful practices, and hereby gives insight into the real lessons learned. Stay put!
The Visionary – motivating for the mission
Visionary leadership is adopted in times where change is needed. It is about setting out the desired course and direction, creating a compelling vision for the future and establishing a strategic platform for the organisation to operate from.
Additionally, a key objective for the Visionary leader is to ensure that the strategy and execution plan comes to life, inspires and makes sense to managers and staff. To facilitate this, the executive must assume strong ownership of the strategy and be dedicated to promoting and executing it; put differently, he or she must demonstrate that Performance Management is a core and essential part of the organisational business strategy, as Anders Carstorp, Director of Södermalm District Administration in Stockholm, articulates it:
“No-one in the organisation can escape our results focus. It is important that it permeates all our business and how we talk.¨
The Visionary leader must:
- Be committed and dedicated to the strategy.
- Formulate a clear, reasoned vision and concept.
- Communicate the vision and concept and the importance of the changes repeatedly and give individuals space to ascribe meaning to what they are learning.
- Acknowledge opposing views, yet maintain momentum in the change process.
- Constantly reflect on the direction and whether goals and targets remain appropriate. The end destination, however, remains static.
The Architect – designing for high performance
Moving on, the Architect leader should design the blueprint that creates alignment and consistency between goals, culture, processes, structure and human capital. In short, if management, measurement and leadership are not synchronised and optimised to support the delivery of high-quality services to achieve the desired outcomes, little will be achieved1. Thomas Thellersen Børner, Director at City of Copenhagen’s Department of Labour and Integration, verbalises the fundamental purpose of the Architect leader this way:
“It is a story that you need to keep alive all the time. I have just been to speak at an introduction course for new employees. The directors prioritise this. One third of my presentation is spent telling the new recruits that we are a Performance Management organisation.”
The Architect leader must:
- Ensure that all systems, structures and processes are aligned and optimised to realise high-performance strategic outcomes.
- Ensure accountability at all levels; assign responsibility and uphold consequences.
- Maintain a strong track record, and get the broad management team on board – this will also make it easier to win the support and commitment of the rest of the organisation.
- Identify, nurture and back up capable middle managers to execute on your behalf.
- Accept that a great number of organisational members will need to adapt and learn new skills.
- Design a knowledge management strategy and maintain a monitoring and evaluation system that feeds timely and relevant performance reports to staff at all levels.
The Engineer – leading through change and implementation
The role of the Engineer is then to lead the organisation through the realisation of the changes required to instigate Performance Management in the organisation, as well as to guide the planning and construction of the processes involved in effective implementation. The importance of this function is stressed by Christine Lugnet, Director General at the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth in Sweden:
“It has been important to establish a line of sight. The other day, one of our staff told me:
‘This is the first time I can relate my work to the aim of the organisation.’”
In short, the Engineer should link strategy with operations, and realise objectives practically. Critical success factors here are intrinsically linked and include a clear line of sight as well as ensuring employees’ ability to ‘make sense’ of what they are doing and why2.
The Engineer leader in must:
- Push performance by setting ambitious yet realistic operational goals for the organisation that will achieve high performance.
- Communicate clearly what is expected.
- Balance ideas and personal energy with the ability of the organizational members to absorb, understand and apply these innovative proposals.
- Stretch without stressing the organisation.
The Manager – driving data-driven learning and action
Last but not least, the Manager drives the organisation in operational mode. Here, according to many of the public sector executives interviewed, Performance Leadership involves establishing an effective management information system, which supports the organisation to achieve its objectives. A typical manager viewpoint is expressed by Dr. Beier, Managing Director at the German Development Agency:
“Best practices are shown in the organisation. When the occasion calls for it, best practice examples of good performance are awarded and shown (at the intranet, knowledge management systems, events).”
In numerous organisations, bringing results to the forefront is only a recent development. The gut feeling has been supplemented or even substituted with facts. In the past, Kjell Richard Andersen, Assistant Director at the City of Oslo Department of Education, was left guessing:
“What is the situation in your organization? What are the results? Many leaders lead on intuition rather than knowledge. Before, in our organization, results were hidden. We did not know how things were. We had to create a picture of what happened.”
Of particular importance for data-driven management is not the data system in itself, but the institutionalised analysis of that data3, as well as fostering a culture that is established around a focus on performance4. Essential to the Manager style is thus the ability to make organisational learning routine by instituting an inquisitive, data-driven culture.
The Manager must:
- Demand performance reports and use these to review performance continuously.
- Data quality is king. Establish regular procedures to check up on data credibility.
- Bring data to life. Translate data analysis into action.
- Promote an inquisitive performance-oriented culture.
- Promote best practice: recognise and reward high performance in public.
Unleash the practices that drive success in the organisation
The message is clear: for maximum impact, Performance Management should be practiced through the situational and contextual application of different, yet complementary, leadership roles. The more detailed requirements for and of each role will always depend on the given situation, and it is thus crucial for executives to be versatile, possessing the full spectrum of qualities needed, in order to be able to act and respond appropriately to the given context. By adapting to different situations and honing the different skills that are needed, executives will pave the way for successful Performance Leadership.