It is the main task of the CEO or business leader to establish the priorities that hopefully synergise to create a powerful money-making machine. Unless you are a one-person show (like a street vendor), you cannot personally implement them all – you need other key people to get them done. It was Walter Wriston who said: “The person who figures out how to harness the collective genius of the people in his or her organisation is going to blow the competition away”. I would add that a leader knows how to get tasks implemented through others – harnessing their efforts, expanding their personal capacities and synchronising their contributions to get results.

All companies need the right people in the right jobs executing the right priorities. If the person making the decisions is not suited to the job, decision-quality is poor and the whole company suffers. If the person is the perfect “fit”, he or she gets better at it, makes a significant contribution and probably derives pleasure from doing it. The person’s capacity grows and the business is impacted towards growth. The leaders who deliver consistently good results are those who recognise what an individual can do best – they link the business need and the person’s natural or acquired talent/s. They take time to place individuals where their strengths can have the most impact.

At times, after a person has worked for an extended period at a company, the mistaken assumption is that the long time spent doing the job gives the person great command over the job. The real world changes, however, the firm’s business priorities shift and the demands of the job inevitably change. Most employees find the journey from current delivery responsibilities to a new set of expectations quite difficult to handle and many do not make it. Without the right people in the right roles, the company simply cannot grow and thrive – as a result, new people may need to be hired to meet the new expectations.

It would seem then that there are two key skills for every CEO, departmental leader or team head:

  • Hiring/placing the right people with the right skills in the right jobs to work on the right priorities – this requires an understanding of the kinds of skills, aptitudes and attitudes needed to accomplish the business priorities. It necessitates that the leader has clarity on the ability required to be able to drive the key business levers and is able to find the right people to do exactly that.
  • Dealing with those in the business who are mismatches – often, these people unfortunately become energy drains based on their feelings of insecurity of not being able to deliver on new expectations – they end up complaining and moaning. Decisive leadership is necessary here to remove someone who is not matched to a job – avoidance for personal or potential conflict reasons hurts the business and does not build leadership reputation.

Great leadership focuses on getting the right people executing the right priorities. It was Ram Charan who noted: “It takes insight into how the organisation really works and how to link people’s actions and decisions to the right priorities. It is this ability, in fact, that sets the superstar CEO’s apart from the rest. Without it, many otherwise talented CEO’s, not to mention entrepreneurs, who have superb business acumen, ultimately fail in the job” (What the CEO Wants You to Know).

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