The organisation leadership balancing act

There are two groups of factors to take into account if you want to make your organisation as effective as possible and produce outstanding results quickly, efficiently and permanently. These are the ‘internal’ and the ’external’.

‘Internal’ factors include people’s mindsets, attitudes, values, perceptions, feelings and beliefs that dictate how people think individually and in groups. These colour how people react to the world about them, including your organisation.

‘External’ factors are the concrete, tangible structures, processes and systems needed to make your organisation work effectively. Examples include organisation structures, salary schemes, IT systems, and business processes.

If you are a leader with more of a practical turn of mind, you may tend to focus on the right-hand end of the balance, the ‘external’. You’ll be more familiar with the tools and techniques used to manage these. When you think about developing your organisation, your first instinctive reaction will be to focus on those areas that are capable of being managed using everyday skills: planning, directing, implementing and analysing.

When the focus needs to move to bringing along people’s hearts and minds, you may try to work on these ‘internal’ factors using the familiar skills you used before. We see business leaders over and over again trying to resolve a relationship breakdown, or a personal lack of performance, by restructuring the team. Or it takes the form of firing somebody and hiring someone new. Maybe you scrap a system that has been used more or less effectively for some time, and instead install the very latest thing. However, what’s really needed is to talk to and engage the commitment and enthusiasm of the staff involved.

Using a heavy hand when a sensitive touch is required just doesn’t work! And so the team continues to underperform, the staff resent the newcomer, the new system doesn’t work any better than the old one…

The key points:

  1. ‘Internal’ and ‘external’ factors need to be focused on equally over time.
  2. There’s a sensitive balance to strike when you consider which to pay attention to at any given time.
  3. You need to use the right tools.

As a leader, you must develop both areas of skill: not just planning, directing, implementing and analysing, but also listening, communicating, inspiring, sharing and role modelling. Leading your organisation effectively means developing your awareness and skill equally in both areas – and if you as a leader don’t manage both with equal rigour, your organisation will fail.

What’s your strength: internal or external factors?

Effective leadership in a nutshell