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The Good Leaders Versus the Right Leaders

Any business jockeying for growth, change, or succession has people who’ve been good leaders, and they may still be good leaders. But now, with evolving customer preferences, changing technologies and developing competitors, all in the midst of a stubborn pandemic, are these good leaders still the right leaders?

Let’s take a simple but telling nine-point pulse of your business. Consider symptoms that may indicate that the changing circumstances could be out-pacing your leaders…

  1. Are your business results hitting their potential?

  2. Do current leaders need to be backstopped or excessively supported – by other employees, or by consultants?

  3. Can you comfortably delegate decision-making to them?

  4. Have you restructured jobs or organizations to accommodate leadership shortcomings?

  5. Are you more involved in their areas of responsibility than you’d like to be?

  6. Are leaders blaming circumstances or others for disappointing business results?

  7. Is your employee turnover rate too high – or too low? Are you keeping the best people?

  8. Do your leaders know the current and evolving industry landscape, competitors, technologies, and customers? Do they act on that knowledge?

  9. How does your business stack up against your competitors’ results and prospects, and against your own plans?

If you had to re-fill any of your company’s leadership positions today, would you hire the current incumbent?

When it’s time (or past time) for a change, you have alternatives. The best option for your unique business will hinge on:

  • The time and resources required to transform the leaders you have into the leaders you’ll need;

  • The commitment needed to instead go outside to recruit the right expertise and fit;

  • The capacity of your business to endure, grow and change if these positions were instead vacated;

  • Your willingness to risk no change at all.

A decision to reassign or replace people is tough, especially when you know them well and they’re long-term and loyal employees. But companies that mature without refreshing themselves can breed a business crisis. One executive in a shrinking industry recently confided to us that, “Failures of companies in this industry are often due to failure of leadership. The remaining people don’t want to change and/or they don’t want to manage change.

Any decision will carry some risk, but in the face of critical current or strategic needs, the decision to do nothing may carry the greatest risk. We all have a tendency to focus on the potential hurdles. To put the hurdles in perspective, consider what will happen to you, your business, your community, and to all employees, if you make no adjustment at all.

While we scrutinize the challenges that are eluding us or our leaders, our gut will be telling us if something isn’t right. In the thick of it all, we’ll know if it’s time to make a change.

We may elect to ignore it, but we’ll know.


Stan Davis is the Founding Principal of Standish Executive Search, a New England-based firm that advises business owners, executives and boards who are positioning their companies for accelerated growth, change or succession.

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