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CEOs: Start with purpose, values, vision and strategy

Random acts don’t equate strategy


When leaders have no governing principles (e.g., values, vision and strategy), decision-making is random, and chaos ensues.

I work with business executives, but the same concept applies to any leader. If you don’t start with purpose, values, vision and strategy, your decisions and actions resemble a rocket without a guidance system. Lots of spent energy, lots of movement, but no clear destination or path forward. In fact, you’ll go backward about half the time.

Our current president is, in my opinion, a great example of someone trying to lead without clear principles and strategy. I believe the only guiding principle is self-aggrandizement. Set your emotion aside for a moment. Whether you love or hate him, he presents a great case study as to what happens when someone tries to lead without clear and consistent governing principles.

I’ve also seen this in CEOs. Lack of clear strategy means decisions are made extemporaneously. Trying to do the right thing isn’t good enough. People want to follow someone who’s predictably driven by a set of known values and a clear path. Knee-jerk reactions and rainbow-chasing forces the organization into recovery and response mode rather than following a guiding set of ideas toward a defined, brighter future.

Talented people won’t stay in an organization led by an errant rocket. Once again, our current administration is an all-too-visible example. The board would remove any CEO who lost as many senior executives. I’ve never seen a high-quality, inspired management team stay intact with an errant rocket at the helm.

When random decisions are made in the business world, capital and people are squandered. See if you can find a private equity firm whose mission is to, “randomly invest capital and hope for a good return.” Here’s a large pile of cash; just make it up as you go. Yes, even a blind squirrel finds a nut occasionally, but luck shouldn’t be the sole factor in determining success.

Don’t be an errant rocket. Without the guardrails that guiding principles provide, you’ll squander capital and people. By all means, maintain some flexibility and respond to unforeseeable events, but remember that leadership is about providing direction and clarity, not creating chaos.

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Todd Ordal

Todd Ordal is president of Applied Strategy®. Todd helps CEOs achieve better financial results, become more effective leaders and sleep easier at night. He is a former CEO and has led teams as large as 7,000. Todd is the author of Never Kick a Cow Chip On A Hot Day: Real Lessons for Real CEOs and Those Who Want To Be (Morgan James Publishing, 2016). Connect with Todd on LinkedIn, Twitter, call 303-527-0417 or email todd@toddordal.com.

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