WHAT do leaders do?  Better stated, what should they do?  It’s a question oft asked and with a multitude of answers.  Here’s a definitive list that briefly outlines the essentials.

If any of these things is not done, or not done well, your venture risks failure. They are not done in isolation, they are dynamic, and often require collaborative effort, but their buck stops with the top leader, be it GM, CEO, President, Chairperson, Coach, or Grand Pubah.

1. Envisioning – What we do; establishing Vision and Positioning.

Envisioning means creating, establishing and communicating a clear, concise, and compelling vision of what value the organization provides to its customers and to its other stakeholders, and delineates the organizations position, or intended position, in the market.

Note that this is not about what the company makes, or the service it provides. The best organizations frame their vision and position in terms of the needs that will be fulfilled.

2. Strategizing – How we’ll do it; establishing mission and strategic plans.

Every facet of the organization needs to be planned for, from production to marketing to finance to logistics to human resources, to R&D, and a whole host more besides. The best planners understand that no plan survives contact with reality for long, so good plans have dynamic revision protocols built in.

3. Delegating – Who will do what; assigning roles and responsibilities.

From a start-up entrepreneur, to a CEO, engaging and deploying human resources effectively & efficiently, and establishing accountability, is essential.  And proper delegation includes performance management.  See here for the when how and why of delegation.

4. Scanning – internally and externally.

Externally; for threats to be defended against and opportunities to be exploited; and, internally for strengths to be leveraged and weaknesses to be negated.

The organizational leader needs to know what’s going on; to have a clear line of sight to the front-lines, as it were.

Internally, that means monitoring performance, for which the two key indicators are quality and efficiency.  How good is our product, (that is, how well are we meeting the need we’ve envisioned we’d fulfill?), and how good are we at delivering it?  Falls in either of these indicators signal a breakdown somewhere, be it in processes, teamwork, morale, cost-control, etc.;


Ensuring the integrity of the organization and all its members. The buck of ethical and legally compliant conduct stops at the top.

Externally, it means knowing the organization’s customers (from every conceivable angle); having a feel for existing and potential markets; knowing what competitors (and potential competitors) are doing and planning; staying in touch with industry trends; and monitoring the environment in general, (which these days is global for just about everybody), for broader opportunities and threats.

5. Networking – Broadening and strengthening the organization’s sources of resources.

Networking at the highest level is important in providing a fresh current of resource inputs for the organization, be it talent, ideas, material inputs, customers, information, markets, and more.  Networking is not just for, actually, not even primarily for, making sales.  [More on networking here]

6. Codifying – Establishing, communicating, and demonstrating the ethical framework (values and principles) by which the organization and all of its members operate.

The organizational leader sets the moral tone.  Period.

That’s it, in brief.  These essential responsibilities are prerequisite for organizational success, but they don’t guarantee it.  Success is never guaranteed.  Mistakes of judgment can still be made, and luck, good and bad, sometimes come into play.

Each of these subjects deserves a post, if not a book, of its own, so in future posts we’ll look into each in more detail. The Method Leadership eLearning courses, on the way for release later this year, will offer in-depth how-to instruction, on these, and many more, topics.

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