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On leading organisations

The dictionary defines an organization as a “company, firm, concern, operation, corporation, institution, group, establishment, consortium, conglomerate, combine, syndicate, body, agency, federation, confederation, alliance, coalition, association, movement, society, league, club, network, confederacy; informal outfit, or set-up.” 

It’s wise to keep that definition in mind because:

a) most people restrict their understanding of organizations to profit or not-for-profit companies; and

b) the competencies shared below (or any leadership/organizational principle or concept that you’ll ever read about) applies to organizations of all types and sizes.

Leading an organization is possibly the highest achievement or accolade of a professional’s life. It’s a place that can’t be bought or sold. You’ve got to earn it. And yes, like the other stages, this one requires one to have mastery (or at least a solid understanding) of specific competencies as well.

Before we dive deep, I would like to clarify that the competencies below are the bare minimum and not the be-all-and-end-all “formula for success.” They are merely guidelines and shared here for your understanding of what it takes to succeed in leadership roles.

Mastery or understanding of the general competencies will get your foot in the door, as in, people will acknowledge you for “having the potential.” But to succeed in your role, you may require other competencies (there are like ten others that you need to master to be a leader of significance) that I plan to share in future. 

Alright, here were go with the list: 

External Awareness

Understands and keeps up-to-date on local, national, and international policies and trends that affect the organization and shape stakeholders’ views; is aware of the organization’s impact on the external environment.

“Keeping up-to-date…” in no way means that you will be on Twitter and other socials at all times. The idea is for you to be in the know of what’s happening around you and your organization. If you think you can get by without this information, think again, there’s a reason why Charlie Munger, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and other icons of our times start their day with a healthy dose of news media. Information gives you an edge. But you’ve got to be selective about what you’re reading. 

Munger, for example, reads the Economist. Throw in another reputed publication, and you should be good. I don’t value free information, but I know I’m generalizing. It works for me, as I would invest my time and money in a publication instead of reading something random. If you hate reading, try podcasts or the good old TV for news and opinions. 

Vision

Takes a long-term view and builds a shared vision with others; acts as a catalyst for organizational change. Influences others to translate vision into action.

I don’t think one can be a leader if they’re stuck in the present or the past. The actions I take today should move me towards a goal that I’ve set for the future. And if that’s not the case, why the heck am I doing what I’m doing? 

A chunk of my work involves helping leaders translate their vision into action. A significant amount of time, however, is spent just clarifying what that vision is. Most leaders aren’t sure about it, which means their teams are equally listless. As you can imagine, these organizations are just a misstep away from destruction. 

The alternative is to lock yourself up in a room and think about the future — the kind of company and culture you would like to create, the type of teams that you would like to lead, the people you would like to bring in, and the actions you would like them to take to move towards the organizational goals. That’s a great start. 

A leader without a vision won’t last long. Period. 

Strategic Thinking

Formulates objectives and priorities, and implements plans consistent with the long-term interest of the organization in a global environment, Capitalizes on opportunities and manages risks.

Strategic thinking builds on vision. One can’t be strategic without a vision. — if vision is the destination, a strategy is the route. 

The significant difference between strategic thinking at this level and others is that you have to think much more broadly and the stakes are high. 

Entrepreneurship

Positions the organization for future success by identifying new opportunities; builds the organization by developing or improving products or services. Takes calculated risks to accomplish organizational objectives. 

Having an entrepreneurship zeal is essential to succeed in this role. Being an organizational leader means that there’s a whole lot of reliance on KPIs or KRAs developed by some random manager. You will be accountable to the company’s growth, so, you will be seeking opportunities to maximize, collaborate, and expand. 

Skipping that isn’t an option because you’re answerable either to the board of directors or your CEO if it isn’t your company. 


As you can tell, leading organizations calls for a different level of commitment and advanced competencies than the other stages*. They may sound simple, but there’s a whole lot that goes into it than what people have in mind. 

Having a solid understanding is a significant first step you can take to lead your organization effectively. But it’s important to know that the competencies above are quite essential, you will need a whole lot more to get to the next level. I know I’m repeating this, but it bears repetition — you can’t be content with the rudimentary if you wish to grow your business. 

The price you pay for complacency is massive. How do I know? I’ve spent the price and so have many other leaders I’ve been helping the past few years. If you’ve been leading organizations at any level for any length of time and have mastered the competencies above, it is time to level-up. And I’ll be delighted to help! 

P.S. * previous stages were as follows:

Stage 1: Leading Yourself

Stage 2: Leading People

Stage 3: Leading Projects

Stage 4: Leading Programs and initiatives