Leadership for sustained success

Apr 02, 2018

The art of business is one that is best demonstrated when the organization being managed has sustained success over a period of many years.

Rarely does this happen. Surprisingly few companies ever make it to the 10-year mark – and even fewer continue to thrive past that point.

Why do you think this is?

Some management experts like Jim Collins would claim that for successful companies, it’s all due to “Level 5 leadership,” the characteristics of which are humility, will, ferocious resolve, and the tendency to give credit to others while assigning blame to themselves.

I’m not so sure that is all it takes. I think there is more to it than that. Here are my thoughts on leadership in organizations that are successful year after year over the long haul:

  • Leaders have to know which strategies made the firm great and cannot change, and which ones have to evolve to allow the company to adapt to an emerging environment. The longer I have been around the more conscious I am of this. Our own firm, Zweig Group, is a great example. We are nearly 30 years old. I think knowing what to keep and what to change is one of the most crucial skills a leader can have. This is a big part of the “art” of management.
  • Leaders have to be decisive. The ability to make a decision when you have limited information and an uncertain future is one of the most critical skills a leader can have. You cannot be paralyzed by a lack of information. There will always be incomplete information. Engineers are the worst about this, which is part of the reason so many struggle in management/leadership roles. One way to combat this tendency is to have “pre-made” decisions through better strategic planning (and personal planning). The other way is to have good mentors you can bounce things off of to get a quick reaction. Both are necessary tactics to employ. But in any case, everyone is looking to the leader for decisions to be made. And they have to make them quickly!
  • Leaders have to be able to pick their successors. Without being able to do that there will be no continuity and no sustained success. Not everyone is good at it. Some people pick others in their own image. That rarely works. You need someone who can respect the heritage but also strike out in new directions. That “new” is as important as the old.

So there’s a lot to it. More than “Level 5.” Where do you stand? Are you going to be sustainably successful? If not – change before it’s too late!

Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at mzweig@zweiggroup.com.

Subscribe to the electronic version of The Zweig Letter for free.

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.