Different circumstances require different leadership approaches.
- Turnaround: When an organization is in trouble, it requires leaders who will take charge. Difficult circumstances or an existential threat require that people take action now, without having the time to debate the choices of action, without a chance to build consensus around the approach, and without concern for tradition. The turnaround leader can break things on their way to making things better, and they can create ill will along the way. But when survival is at stake, this approach is necessary.
- Change Agent: A turnaround is a shift of 180 degrees; the organization is moving in the wrong direction. A change agent needs to adjust the organization’s direction by degrees, more than 1 degree and less than 180. The strategy isn’t quite right and needs to be significantly adjusted. The business model isn’t producing the expected results, and the go-to-market strategy need to be significantly modified. There isn’t all the time in the world to debate the choices and build consensus, but there is some time to enlist the support of other leaders to help make change. When things aren’t working, a leader has to make change.
- Execution: There are some circumstances that require a leader who can execute and deliver results. The organization is in no danger, no real change is needed, other than greater execution of what is already in place. This choice is often overlooked by new leaders, who believe they must be a turnaround leader or a change agent. But sometimes all that is necessary for the leader to help the organization reach its full potential is to create accountability for executing on what is already in place. The execution leader has time to build consensus, build traditions, and inspire greater action.
One of the ways to be a great leader is to know what role you need to play to best serve your organization.
When your organization needs better execution, being a turnaround leader or a change agent will prevent you from producing the results you need. Likewise, when something is broken, execution isn’t enough to realize the organization’s potential.