The top leader’s REAL job

Jan 11, 2016

242When seeking to define his or her position, a top leader should consider these 7 vital responsibilities.

Because top firm leaders (CEOs, presidents, managing partners, etc.) probably have a better opportunity to define their own roles than those who aren’t in leadership roles, one of the big questions every leader has to ask him- or herself is: “What is my REAL job as a leader?” Here is some of what I think it is:
  1. Defining and communicating the mission for the organization. Why does the company exist? What does it stand for? Why is it a worthwhile organization to devote your time to or to give your valuable business to? The answers to these and many other questions related to purpose are the domain of the top leader. If you can’t do it, who is going to? The person who can give life to these questions should be the top leader.
  2. Defining and communicating the vision for the organization. What are you trying to become by some point in time? How large? Doing what for whom? The vision is so essential. We routinely see a lack of clarity for what the firm’s vision is and that, in turn, paralyzes every single decision management has to make – large and small. The top leader has to define the vision, sell it, and continue to communicate it, over and over.
  3. Getting the right people in the right roles in the organization. This also includes recruiting. Who is on the team and what position are they in? Takes a continuous effort to analyze and make the changes needed. New hires, reassignments, and firings – all part of the top leader’s job and one that takes constant attention to do it well. And by the way – even though not everyone is (obviously) a direct report, it does not mean you should be laissez faire when it comes to who works in the firm in any job.
  4. Determining basic resource allocation issues. What will the firm spend money on? Will you buy other companies? What should the marketing budget be? Where will you grow? What will you invest in? Where the money goes is a really big part of the job of the top leader of any firm in this business.
  5. Confronting “uglies.” This is everything from a non-productive principal to a non-paying client to a bank credit line that’s out of compliance to a problem employee who is alienating everyone else – whatever the worst things are facing the firm. The top leader HAS to do this. No one else can or will.
  6. General cheerleading. You gotta be up when everyone else may not be. Constantly selling the future – why it’s good to be there, why the firm will do well in spite of any obstacle – this is your job. Optimism, general cheerfulness, and ability to see light at the end of the tunnel even in the midst of major crises – the top leader has to have this ability in his/her toolbag.
  7. Setting an example. Always the job of the top leader. People will do as you do –not as you say. So work ethic, communication speed, willingness to do dirty work when necessary, compliance with company policy, self-sacrifice, and so much more all have to be exemplified by the top leader if you expect anyone else to model those behaviors.
There’s a lot more … so much more. But I’m out of space. See you next week! This article origIssue # 1133 - The Zweig Letter Published Jan 04, 2016 MARK ZWEIG is founder and CEO at Zweig Group. Contact him at

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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.