And then their ability to exert authority, their ability to make hard decisions, their ability to make decisions that affect people that don’t want to be affected by them is impaired later. And so finding the balance of how to reset the boundaries while keeping relationships intact that are now different is an art form. And it can be done. There are ways to do it. But if no one says to you, hey, you need to go sit down with the people who used to be your peers who now report to you and have the following conversation with them.
Or, you need to go sit down with the people who you used to report to who are now peers to you and have the following conversation with them. So that everybody goes, oh, yeah, this is different now. And now I know the new rules. So those are just some illustrative looks at the landscape on the way up, and the landscape once you land on the new planet. Like I said before, the great news was there are predictable things that those that actually stuck the landing and thrived did when they landed that can be learned.
So these were the four things that the exceptional leaders did. We call them choice, context, connection, and breadth. I’ll talk about each of them individually. So breadth– these were the folks that were able to move out of a narrow swim lane, their discipline, whether it was a business unit or a functional discipline like finance or marketing, and see the bigger picture. They were able to understand how the pieces of the organization fit together. They knew that it was really at the seams of the organization that actual transformation and change happened.
So they can go from playing first chair to conductor. They could build bridges between people. If they grew up in finance, they didn’t see the world economically. Or if they grew up in marketing, they didn’t see the world through consumers.
If they grew up in YouTube, they didn’t see the world through just video. They could actually now begin to broaden how the organization came together. The broader your influence in an organization, the more you have to bring pieces together and see it as a whole. For some leaders who only could stay in their swim lane and see the world through the lens they came in with, struggled to see how peripheral– how they fit into a bigger story. These leaders instantly knew, I fit into a bigger story here.
I should want to know what that story is. And they went and found out. They were able to– if there was factions or conflict or border wars among groups, they’d bring those people together. Rather than running around and negotiating, they would bring people together to force them into conversations that built relationships. So breadth, stitch the seams around you.
Bring people together in interconnection, rather than letting them be pulled apart. Ask yourself, where are there disconnects among the groups I’m in or leading? How do I bring them together? For too many leaders, the failure rate was an issue of just ignoring. They would aim their influence at one group at the expense of others, and actually make the division worse.
Context– so these were the leaders that were curious. They came in and started asking, what is it I have to adapt about my ideas or my approach to fit in with this organization just enough to be influential? They didn’t go native, but they realized that this environment has as much to change in me as I have to change in them.
So even if I thought I had some mandate, I didn’t just go impose it. I learned, I adapted. I read the tea leaves. I asked myself outside, what influences or trends or technologies or disruptions are coming my way? What do I have to anticipate? What could be unforeseen by me now that I should know about? They were innately curious about the people around them and the business that they were in.
So in your case, ask yourself, of all the ways Google competes, what’s the actual contribution and value my team creates? I know what my tasks are. I know what my deliverables are. But how do I contribute to the bigger story? How do I fit into the context of Google? These leaders would start with those questions. The failed leaders would start by assuming the answer they had was the answer that everybody else needed. And so being brilliant, being smart was more important to them than learning.
So read the environment around you. And resist the need to be constrained by near-term results. Actually set your sights on longer-term– learn, as much as it is difficult when other people are pressuring you, to stay focused on longer-term outcomes. So choice– turns out decision-making was a major impediment for some leaders, in terms of being able to disappoint people. Leadership is the ability to disappoint people at a rate they can absorb.
So if you’re somebody who says yes too much because you want to please people, or you don’t want to deal with the rejection of people being angry at you for disappointing them, leadership will be hard. But narrowing the focus of a group– how many of you have ever said, or thought, I have just enough priorities? Nobody. How many of you have said, we have too many priorities? Right? We all feel overworked, overstretched, unfocused. So what’s the alternative? My only choice is, OK, whatever you’re screaming about today, that’s what’s important. That’s the priority.
Not, I’m clear on the three things that are the most critical. The other things I can let go I know where to make my trade-offs. These leaders could not only themselves, but help those they lead, make the hard trade-offs. And they narrowed the focus of the people to just a few things to do them with excellence.