As we prepare to go on our 35th Marco sales incentive trip with our quota achievers next week, I recall my first trip and how much has changed since then. What started as a small group of about 15 of us has grown to over 115 this year. It made me realize how the size of our company has impacted my leadership responsibilities.
When it comes to leadership, size actually does matter. While the fundamental principles of leadership that I outlined in my very first blog post remain true, they are not applied in the same way when you go from a small or medium organization to a larger enterprise. Here’s a look at a few ways I see leadership change with size:
A LEADER is someone with followers.
As you grow, those followers multiply (sometimes quite quickly) and your ability to connect with them becomes more challenging. Even though I spend much time in the field and visiting our offices across the Midwest, I can no longer see as deep into the organization. So I have to depend on other leaders in our organization to share a vision they can execute.
Today, I spend much more time collaborating with our leadership team to ensure we have the structure and talent in place to execute on our strategies. The organization chart has become more important as we constantly refine that structure so people know who to follow.
A LEADER gives up control to get control.
I’ve always believed effective leaders need to give up control to get control and it has been an essential element to our success. As we have become a much larger operation, all of us have had to allow more people to make bigger decisions.
As CEO, I am ultimately accountable for the bigger decisions. But that doesn’t mean I’m always a part of making them. This is where confidence and trust in other leaders comes into play. My role has shifted from making direct decisions to influencing outcomes.
A LEADER is decisive especially when it’s challenging.
The decisions I get involved with have gotten bigger, more complex and carry more zeros financially. The ability to thin slice an issue and take action is now more important because we have more people providing input and more data available to influence the process.
I also find myself making the more difficult decisions without knowing all the facts, yet the implications can be quite significant. Psychological hardiness comes into play more in a larger company than it did in a smaller one because the stakes are higher. Ultimately a decision has to be made and often the more difficult ones get escalated up.
A leader recognizes that not everyone can scale with the operation.
This is one of the most impactful lessons I have learned as we have grown as a company. People can max out as leaders, but they can still be contributors. This concept in management theory is known as the “Peter Principle.” I will talk more about this in my next blog, but essentially, it recognizes that leaders have limitations. As people are promoted, they can become progressively less effective.
Good performance in one leadership role does not guarantee a similar performance in another. Leading a smaller organization is not the same as leading a larger enterprise. I have had to be mindful of that myself as CEO. I continue to adapt and grow as a leader, and while the underlying principles of leadership may be the same, the ability to execute does become more challenging. I look forward to the journey ahead.