Jack Welch, chairman and CEO of General Electric between 1981 and 2001

Leadership for Business Growth

Are you a 'growth' leader?

An understanding of the four constructs of leadership, vision, enterprise, and team working is essential for any leader. Their influence on organizational growth cannot be understated.

Good leaders develop through a never ending process of self-study, education, training, and experience. Growth leaders must be good leaders and have a vision for growth.

Good leadership and enterprise are essential for survival. For growth, a leader must also have a growth vision and team working skills.

The construct of 'vision' applies to leaders and their direction of vision, that is, does the leader have a vision that is directed towards realizing enduring growth of the organisation, or, a vision directed towards achieving their desired lifestyle through their organisation?1

Research carried out into the differences between a growth and a 'lifestyle' organization revealed the following differences between the leaders:

Leader Characteristic Growth Leader Lifestyle Leader
Attitude to training Self: focus on continuing development.
Workforce: Large amount carried out.
Self: well qualified but no evidence of continuing development.
Workforce: very little carried out. Appears to resist training of others.
Leadership strength Strong (Belbin's Shaper / Coordinator). Weak (Belbin's Completer Finisher).
Consultation / team work Always evident. Little or none evident.
Leader's vision Growth vision clearly expressed. Believes growth will just happen.
Management style Proactive. Reactive.
Leader's weaknesses Recognised and addressed. Not recognised.
Leader's 'projection'. Leader in background. Leader at front.
Decision making Devolved Centralised.
Riak taking Calculated risks taken. Risk averse.
Enterprise tendencies of leader (Caird's GET) High. High.

Lead by example

Team working involves inspiring team members to achieve their highest potential. A leader who leads by positive example can create a team environment in which all team members feel valued. The leader should encourage the team to reach team goals in line with his or her vision. Here are a few important phrases to say that inspire team working:

  • The six most important words, "I admit I made a mistake."
  • The five most important words, "You did a good job."
  • The four most important words, "What is your opinion?"
  • The three most important words, "If you please."
  • The two most important words, "Thank you."
  • The one most important word, "We"
  • The least most important word, "I"

The leader must have a vision of growth if the organisation is to be a growth organisation beyond its initial growth phase. It is the leader's vision (combined with his or her leadership effectiveness) that is the key feature in determining whether an organization will be growth or lifestyle in orientation.

The growth orientation of the leader manifests itself when key strategic decisions are made. These may be quite rare.4 If the senior management team contains lifestyle members, and there is a high probability that this will be the case, the ability of the leader to ensure that these key decisions are carried through is paramount.5

If you want to know more about how leadership impacts on growth, read Narcissism: Behind the Mask.

1 Churchill, N.C. and Lewis, V.L. (1983), The five stages of small business growth, Harvard Business Review, Vol. 61, No. 3.
2 Caird, S.P. (1988), Report on the Development and Validation of a Measure of General Enterprising Tendency, Durham University Business School, DUBS Occasional Paper 8913.
3 Caird, S.P. (1989), A Review of Methods of Measuring Enterprise Attributes, Durham University Business School, DUBS Occasional Paper 8914.
4 Burrus, K. (2002), Interview: Pierre-Yves Firmenich, CEO of Firmenich, Thunderbird International Business Review (USA), Vol. 44, No. 3, pp. 305-314.
5 Storey, D.J. (1994), Understanding The Small Business Sector, International Thompson Business Press, London.