Great Leadership – Building the Big Picture

Heifetz & Laurie in “The Work of Leadership.” argue that leaders need to ‘get on the balcony’. Simply put, leaders need to have a high-level perspective, a Big Picture of what is happening in their business. They need to be able to see what everyone is doing and how their actions interrelate and connect to achieve the goals of the business.

That is clearly true. But a great leader sees far more than the Big Picture.

Do you remember the old World War II movies – remember the War Room and the big Strategy Table with the all the arsenals of the good guys and the bad guys lined up? And they would be moved around on the table to show what was happening.

The Admiral or Commander would be looking beyond what was happening. They would look and see patterns and trends and consider possible responses and risks.

Today, a great leader would hopefully not have a war room, but there would be a Strategy Table, even if it is virtual and does not look like a table. A great leader, knows what is happening in the business, knows the key people and knows the key success indicators.

A great leader also knows what similar businesses are doing and understands what is working well or not working well for them.

The Big Picture is often just a snapshot, a point in time and sometimes reliant on specific circumstances. Therefore, it needs to be challenged and it needs to be overlayed with questions, and risks and new ideas.

A great leader will share this information to staff and encourage feedback and new ideas so that they can plan for and respond to change.

At this time of almost constant change and uncertainty, it is opportune to reconsider and re-draw your Big Picture. Build a story and connections around your Big Picture. Explain how it aligns to the business, its values and desired outcomes.

Be clear that the Big Picture for the business may change or evolve and that is okay. Also be clear that the values for the business remain in tact. Now is also the time to build resilience and adaptability into your Big Picture.

One of my favourite examples is a vision statement for a real estate agency. You can imagine a common theme of selling houses or achieving the best price for your clients. But the one that stood out for me did not even mention selling or sales.

Here is what they said:

To impress existing and potential clients through our real estate services with the intent that all who come into contact with us are pleased and proud to recommend us to their families, their friends and their colleagues without hesitation.

This vision, this Big Picture, of their business is still about real estate, but it is also about sustainability and longevity. They want more than the single sale. They want to be recommended and known as a good real estate business. They are creating connections within their community.

So at your next strategy session, talk Big Picture and make it real.