5- Leadership Excellence – How to drive impact of teams by focus, tools and habits… with respect, trust and a WHY.

January 30, 2020


Excellent leaders strive for leaving positive traces in people, processes and systems by focusing on impact, productivity and (true) leadership, not just on short term results and mere management. Ideally they aim at being a positive and inspiring role model for their people, like Sun Zi (500 BC) said: “A leader leads best by example and not by force.”


In our highly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (“VUCA”) times it is more than ever necessary to prioritize the economic AND social effectiveness and efficiency in organizations to not just survive and get through, but to prosper and continuously ideate, create and distribute positive value with as little waste in the process and result as possible.


For being economic effective and efficient, leaders nourish focus and energy with the right business cases which they drive towards excellent impact with their teams by clear target focus, vital few tools and best habits. To make it possible, they foster being social effective and efficient by building trust with their people and stakeholders. Referring to David Maister et al. (2018) trust is linked to the “trust equation” and trust grows if we pull the right levers:

  • Credibility: What do we know and what do we talk about as an expert and/or leader?

  • Reliability: What are actions and habits which we display congruently with our words?

  • Intimacy: What are feelings we emotional intelligently perceive & arouse in us/others?

  • Self-Orientation: Are we able to cut the ego and adjust the own agenda to team vision?

Leadership excellence combines economic and social performance levers to drive efficiency and effectiveness. The idea of “doing the right things right with impact together as a team” can be simplified and summarized by relevant roles, principles, tasks, tools and best habits.

The roles of an excellent leader are:

  • Effective leader with vision and strategy; able to inspire people to doing the right things.

  • Efficient manager with tools and task focus; able to manage people to doing things right.

  • Enabling coach with intuition and questions; able to empower people's deep potentials.

  • Transforming change agent with head, heart and hand; able to drive evolution & growth.

  • Emotional intelligent networker with trust and 6th sense; able to connect & collaborate.

  • Energetic performer with drive and ambition; able to energize teams and stakeholders.

I experienced the importance of role awareness for example in the Army as an officer and especially in special force settings like leading a ranger commando or cyber war specialists. Clear roles foster impact: Who leads (this time)? Who does not? Who coordinates the tasks? Who clarifies the scenario? Who solves what problem? Who keeps connection to supporters and stakeholders? Who knows whom (internal/external)? Who supports whom? How? Why?

The principles of an excellent leader are:

  • Awareness of the big picture as well as of the important details, levers and barriers.

  • Positive attitude of respect and trust for people and for yourself, and to building trust.

  • Clear focus on results, actions, improvements and development of people & systems.

  • Continuous drive for synergizing strengths in a team & “sharpening the saw” (Covey).

  • Lean mindset, toolset & skillset to foster the creation of value and elimination of waste.

  • Sense for motivation of oneself and others: What is in it for them? What is in it for me?

I experienced the value of leadership principles in my time as an Amazon leader. We had excellent leadership principles which drove the performance culture as well as quality, safety, motivation, trust, learning and development of people. Examples are: Customer obsession, result focus, drive for action, invent and simplify, big picture, insist on highest standards, have backbone to disagree and commit, ownership, frugality, learn & be curious.

You can check them out at... https://www.aboutamazon.com/our-leadership-principles

A selection of tasks of an excellent leader are:

  • Analyze the situation from multiple perspectives and evaluate your big pic and scenario.

  • Develop and define smart targets and strategies based on your analysis and intelligence.

  • Have plans and nail those plans, be open to be bold and dare to experiment and iterate.

  • Measure your actions, results and improvements as: What you control you can improve.

  • Continuously develop, challenge and enable your teams, and yourself and stakeholders.

I observed excellent task orientation and task management in military and public context (“smart cities”). At the Army there is a standard decision making process and strategic task frame: What is our and the other situation? What is the mission/main task? What is our key priority? What are our relevant actions now: Who does what, when, where, how and why? Where do we get best support? Standardized tasking is accompanied by a modern leadership culture, agile methods and consciously combining right levers of impact, info & leadership.

Some tools which enable effectiveness and efficiency of a leader are:

  • Decision routine and templates, for example based on PDCA: Plan. Do. Check. Act.

  • Efficient meetings for collaboration with purpose, agenda, rules, criteria & call 2 action.

  • One-Pager orientation in protocols and documentation to sustain follow ups and impact.

  • Feedback for development & recognition: Details? Perception? Impact? Tip? Win/Win?

  • Agile Tools to drive action & teamplay: Scrum, Design Thinking, Canvas, War Room, ...

  • Tools to keep focus on the important: Positive No, systematic trash, my 30:30:30:10, ...

It is my pleasure to perceive excellent tool application in Consulting right now. Consulting companies and other organizations with performance cultures are sophisticated with tools for transformation, project management and continuous improvement. Some more examples are virtual team management apps, templates for feedback, ideas and process improvement (DMAIC), automatization, mail & task time boxing, ... as well as knowledge management.

Excellence with tools is found in simplicity. Focus on vital few with impact and USE them.

Some habits of excellent leaders beside Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits” are:

  • Make it a habit to always clarify and define your targets, priorities and reason why.

  • Set action-driving time boxes for yourself and your team: JF, 1:1, mails, routines, …

  • Apply agile methods also for yourself and your leadership job to steadily improve.

  • Dare to take decisions and follow through: Who does what, when, where, how & why?

  • Go to where the process takes place: “Management by walking around” (J. Welch, GE)

In short: Make it a habit to aim and to act for driving impact in your field of attention.

I learned a lot about (leadership!) habits in my decades of martial arts training, especially in Taekwondo. There everything is about the right mindset and the way (“Do”) which drives the right habits and impactful actions. Our habits are built on continuous application and repetition like in the martial arts forms (“Kata”). Train to trigger them, ideally even with an incentive. The frame of action in martial arts is defined by a high degree of discipline and order (“5 S”) and tough time boxing (“training flow” and “action/competition flow”). Beside (daily) preparation, concentration and consequence there is a big and in my opinion highly impactful emphasis on post processing and wrapping up (“Cool Down” & “Meditation”).

Even in martial arts the tasks ("training & application"), the habits ("kata") and the impact ("success") are driven by roles ("belts"), principles ("tenets") and tools ("techniques"). The tenets for example are: courtesy, integrity, perseverance, indomitable spirit and humility.

A journey towards leadership excellence with the intention to driving the right things to be done in right and impactful ways is built on diverse roles, principles, tasks, tools and habits. The ones I mentioned are just examples and you will discover your own best practice and selection if you dare to be aware of your leadership path and start to design your journey.

As impulse I close my article with 3 questions you are invited to ask yourself for reflection and self coaching (self leadership) with the intention to continuously improve and grow:

  • Where am I already a good leader in my daily practice?

  • Where do I still stand a bit in my own way?

  • What will I do more, less, same, new and/or stop?

Thank you for your feedback!


Best energy from Munich and a great week for you :-)!



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