Sustaining Leadership: The Road to Derailment Is Paved With Good Intentions


Most business leaders want and try to become better. Yet, often many fail to implement these good intentions. In truth, we can never be our best; we can only get better and better. Leadership sustainability has to show up not only in personal intentions but also in observable behaviors. The road to derailment is paved with good intentions.

Yes, change isn’t easy to sustain. Consider the following:

• Approximately 98 percent of people fail at keeping New Year’s resolutions to change bad habits.
• Almost 70 percent of Americans who pay off credit-card debt with a home-equity loan end up with the same or higher debt in two years.
• Americans spend $40 billion a year on diets, but 19 out of 20 lose nothing but money.

In the book titled “Leadership Sustainability: Seven Disciplines to Achieve the Changes Great Leaders Know They Must Make,” the authors provide both an understanding of why people often fall short and a set of tools for improvement. I just completed reading this compelling book, which was released in March 2013.

This dream team of Dave Ulrich, the man BusinessWeek called the “#1 Management Educator and Guru,” and leadership expert Norm Smallwood provides sophisticated, proven leadership sustainability ideas that can be put to use immediately.

In our bullet-speed, information-saturated world, I especially enjoyed the book’s seven one-word chapter headings. Each speaks as being essential to the leadership equation. Leadership Sustainability can help you master these seven critical disciplines:

1) Simplicity. Set clear priorities that define what’s important. Focus on a few solutions that will have the most impact. Steve Jobs maintained a three-thing list.
2) Time. Allocate time so your calendar matches your intentions. Consider the amount of time linked to routine work, good work and the successful work that addresses your real intentions.
3) Accountability. Take personal responsibility for doing what you say you will do. The wind blows hardest at the top of the mountain. Success is never on sale; it is just a matter of deciding how much you want to pay.
4) Resources. While the buck stops at the top, support your team with an effective, ongoing shared vision, coaching and technology. Leaders lead, managers manage.
5) Tracking. Measure key performance with three questions in mind: “What are we trying to achieve?” “How are we going to achieve it?” “When are we going to achieve it by?”
6) Melioration. Recognize that those who think outside the box and have a variety of experiences are generally the people who will improve and move the business forward. Best practices, the authors contend, come from outside the organization, not from within.
7) Emotion. Draw on personal values and passion to keep motivated. Don’t waste time on sentiment and the past; rather, spend energy on solutions and the future.

A valuable resource for leaders at every level, this book provides a wealth of ideas that are timeless, sound and practical. This style of storytelling, lessons learned and research are especially good for those who want to infuse a robust culture of constant renewal in brand awareness, employee communication and lead generation.