In Henry IV Part 1, Owen Glendover, the leader of the Welsh rebels, joins the insurrection against King Henry. Glendower, a man steeped in the traditional lore of Wales, claims to command great magic. Therefore, mysterious and superstitious, he sometimes acts in response to prophecies and omens. In the play, Glendover boasts to Hotspur, “I can call the spirits from the vastly deep.” Hotspur deflates Gelendover with, “Why, so can I or so can any man; But will they come when you call them?”
Any business owner or senior leader can call the same spirits of strategy from the vastly deep, but business outcomes tattle. They tell us that too often the spirits don’t come. Or, they come, but no one knows what to do with them once they’re there. Successful leaders realize they can’t command magic, but they can create a magical alchemy to turn the raw materials of a strategy into gold and then tie the succession plan to it. Here’s how:
- Model integrity.
- Make decisions that translate the strategy into implementation realities.
- Serve as an avatar for marrying espoused and operational beliefs.
- Actively and unfailingly develop the bench, not just one’s immediate direct reports.
- Give constructive feedback to aid in this development — and not just at performance review times.
- Spend your days doing arson investigations — not putting out today’s fires.
- Constantly and consistently evaluate today’s tactics in terms of tomorrow’s results.
- Show a willingness to sacrifice short-term gains in favor of long-term success.
- Create an environment capable of generating intellectual capital and creative decisions.
- Articulate values, frame reality and hire role models for others.
Confucius called leaders “dealers in hope.” Successful modern-day leaders know they must heed the counsel of the ancient Chinese philosopher and eschew the advice of Glendover. Strong leaders create meaning, vision and trust. They don’t need magic because they understand the words of legendary hockey player Wayne Gretzky, “You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take.”