Are you leadership overhead


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Are you leadership overhead

  1. 1. you “Leadership Overhead”? | Forum CorporationApril 28th, 2011 by Maggie WalshIs overhead good or bad?By definition, “overhead” is good—it constitutes all the things that are needed for a business tofunction, even though they can’t be associated directly with products and services. And yet, theusual perception of overhead is that it represents waste and unnecessary costs.Yesterday, this article arrived in my inbox under the subject line, “Leadership is Overrated.” Theauthor implies that leaders are, essentially, overhead. The bad kind. His implication—that a leader is just amicro-manager with a title—is at best debatable. However, the article does surface some taboo corporatequestions: What do leaders do anyway? Couldn’t we just cut their salaries and be more profitable today?I recently spoke with a leader of a major sales function for a Fortune 100 organization. He told the story ofsaving his organization $3 million by supporting its team of senior leaders as they made and implemented aseries of difficult decisions. These decisions allowed them to execute more effectively. “I could have toldthem who to get rid of and insisted they do it immediately. In fact, a few years ago that is what I would havedone. And we would have had a great short-term result. But I need leaders who can generate these kindsof results over the long-term: leaders who know how to make the hard decisions and feel comfortable doingit.”In other words, the leader did not take the easy way out. That would be something we’d associate with “badoverhead”: overpriced, easily duplicated behavior. Instead, the leader: Took time to reflect on how he could lead more effectively despite the short-term pressures the business put on him Provided clarity for his team on the market strategy and the performance expected of all team members in their respective functions (The leader then stepped back, re-entering to emphasize and build clarity on the strategy and to help with course correction as needed.) Built the confidence of leaders who needed to make hard choices by sharing his own experiences and how his choices had affected the business in both good and bad ways (And he increased the leaders’ confidence by refusing to step in and make decisions for them, despite pressure from above.) Encouraged and supported his team members, and allowed space for their decisions and execution timeframe (He thus created short- and long-term ownership of the business. By his own estimate, it will have a $20 million impact on the bottom line over the long term.)All these skills are ones the leader has learned—ones that translate to significant value for the organizationin untold ways.For more on Forum’s beliefs on leadership and on building a pipeline of leaders who can truly lead and nottake the easy way out, download our whitepaper, Align Your Business and Leadership Strategies.