Create & Ride the Waves of Positive Momentum for Leadership Success
- 24 BEST LEADERSHIP PRACTICES | PART 5 of 24 -
Momentum is crucial because in today’s ever evolving landscape enterprises must have the endurance of a marathon runner, the musculature of a sprinter, and the mental fortitude to embrace a race with no finish line. Indeed, winners are those that take a transformation always on mindset. However, without building positive momentum such a continuous improvement mindset can feel not only daunting but also exhausting. Momentum carries a strong gravitational pull in either a positive or negative direction. Simply, positive momentum, because of its strong organizational inertia, can make even a mediocre leader look great yet on the other hand negative momentum can pull a great leader into mediocrity. As such, momentum is either a leader’s best friend or greatest foe.
Why Positive Momentum is Vital to Growth
Throughout history, extraordinary results very rarely, if ever, happened in one, miraculous step but rather in small incremental steps which fueled the engine of positive momentum and sustainable growth. As the old adage states, “Rome wasn’t built in a day." However, Rome certainly needed positive momentum and continual wins to eventually create its vast empire. Leaders can liken enterprise success and momentum to a marathoner. Any marathon winner must take many steps before crossing the finish line. While Olympic medalists certainly look tremendous on victory day, it’s rather the grueling, small positive steps taken over many years, as well as during the actual race, that allowed these champions to finally arrive at the winner’s podium. Many enterprises start sprinting off the start line with great enthusiasm over an inspired vision or new transformation initiation. However, without seeing any immediate results or positive momentum the pace slows and eventually halts, meaning employees return to business as normal and a status quo mentality. In today's ever-quickening innovation cycles winners are those that constantly reinvent themselves by having a disdain for the status quo and embracing change. In addition, winners are those with speed not size. However, without engaging employees with positive momentum many key success levers such as speed, growth, and innovation come to a grinding halt. And, no matter what course one is on this halt in momentum eventually leads to one's demise. Remember, “even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there (Will Rogers).” And, as Ban Ki-moon noted, “[momentum might be] likened to riding a bicycle. You stay upright and move forward so long as you keep up the momentum.”
Overcome Organizational Inertia with Quick Wins
Enterprises must not settle for letting an inspired vision replace the need for capturing quick wins by setting small milestones. Accordingly, quick wins can create an ever-growing domino effect of positive momentum that ensures quick and often lasting enterprise engagement. Accordingly, leaders must focus on creating quick wins that shifts organizational inertia in a positive direction because it is certainly easier riding the waves you create versus trying to catch the waves of another competitor. Simply, positive momentum gained from quick, strategic wins helps organizations eventually become disruptors instead of reactors and innovators instead of imitators. Building up this positive snowball effect is key because even the most inspired vision and well-focused alignment is oftentimes no match for organizational inertia. Thus, overcoming any current enterprise inertia and the mental hurdle of overwhelmed employees is oftentimes the most glaring challenge facing leaders. As such, seeking out and gaining quick wins is vital for shifting this organizational inertia into positive momentum. As James M. Kouzes & Barry Z. Posner noted, “Quick wins, when piled on top of each other, build confidence that even the greatest challenges can be met.” On the other hand, without momentum even the most basic of tasks seem impossible.
To ensure quick wins and positive momentum creation, leaders must put in place clear roadmaps, milestones, and linked KPI’s to ensure each quick win is quantified beforehand instead of leaving it to chance. Typically, 15-25 milestones per roadmap are efficient, with each milestone having financial KPI’s, operational metrics, defined owners/stakeholders, expected timeline, defined interdependencies, and clear outcomes. Only then will quick wins allow the enterprise to maintain the endurance of a marathon runner while having the musculature of a sprinter because momentum is the tailwind that provides the morale, energy, and inspiration to keep moving toward the vision.
Many leaders can inspire and create a shared vision but if this vision never moves beyond the initial stage it is nothing more than dreaming. Accordingly, positive momentum allows leaders to transform a vision from a dream into reality because top quartile performance doesn’t happen in one, miraculous step but rather by creating positive momentum that comes from taking one step at time. Indeed, negative momentum can destroy both a successful company and great leader while positive momentum can transform mediocrity in greatness. As such, leaders should respect momentum as the tool that it is because it can truly be one's greatest ally or most daunting foe. Accordingly, leaders that keep an ever watchful eye on creating quick wins - the fuel for driving sustainable positive momentum - will overcome organizational inertia. In turn, they will ensure those they are leading become disruptors instead of reactors, innovators instead of imitators, and embracers of change instead of perpetuators of the status quo.
Read the other best leadership practices HERE.
24 Best Leadership Practices
- Series Overview -
The following article is Part 5 of a 24 part series on leadership (See all 24 best leadership practices HERE). To summarize, leadership is everyone’s business. Moreover, leadership abilities are not some innate talent that some were either born with or not but rather is a highly learnable skill. As such, everyone has the potential to become a great leader as long as one embraces a mindset of continuous improvement. Simply, leadership is not so much about inherent gifts and raw talent but rather the emotional awareness, humility, and perseverance to understand that leadership is a lifelong journey that is never mastered. Indeed, aspiring leaders must acquire the endurance of a marathoner, the musculature of a sprinter, and the mental fortitude to embrace that there is never a finish line but rather an unending goal of continuous transformation.
Ultimately, the leadership journey is not about becoming someone else but instead is about becoming one's best self so that in turn one can help others become their best self. And, while there are many facets that go into successful leadership we have identified 24 best leadership practices all of which are grouped into one of three categories, namely (1) inspire, (2) empower, and (3) innovate (see all 24 practices HERE).
- INSPIRE: To inspire action, great leaders appeal to people's hearts more than their minds. Simply, visionary leaders plan with the mind, lead with the heart, and reflect with the soul.
- EMPOWER: Great leaders empower those they are leading while simultaneously creating a collaborative culture that promotes the notion that together we can accomplish anything as long as we don't care who gets the credit.
- INNOVATE: Visionary leaders embrace change and understand that the term "good enough" is used by the lazy to justify inaction. As such, great leaders disrupt themselves and their companies before others do it for them.
Leadership is the greatest race one will ever run – one without a finish line but also one with an exponential ceiling for those that embrace change, growth, and learning. While the level of employee talent may determine the potential of an organization it is the leader that ultimately unlocks that potential and determines the success of both the organization and its people. Although no leader will be a master at each of the proposed 24 leadership practices, awareness is often the greatest agent for change and continuous improvement. As such, we hope the proposed practices will be of service to you in maximizing not only your leadership potential but also the potential of those around you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Joshua Seedman is the founder and chairman of PNI Consulting, a management consulting firm that specializes in global transformations. He has over 20 years of operating and general management experience with expertise in organizational transformations, customer experience, employee engagement, digital transformations, sales & marketing, operational turnarounds, culture/change management, and high-stakes negotiations. His experience includes executive roles within F500 companies, top-tier consulting leadership (McKinsey & Company), over 10 years of global P&L ownership, and corporate lawyer (Davis Polk & Wardwell). He received his MBA from Kellogg School of Management and his Juris Doctor (cum laude) from Northwestern University School of Law.