“Impossibility” For You And Your Team


Dear CEO

We recently had this fascinating conversation with my panel that included Bernard Swanepoel, former CEO of Harmony Gold for 12 years. I think you will find it interesting. For more than this, including panel comments, listen to the podcast here.

Do you want to positively impact your organization, your people, and your environment – leave a lasting legacy? Not easy in today’s world! If, as the newly appointed or even experienced leader, you know that your organization is struggling to confidently stay ahead, despite the numbers seeming fine; or it needs to be taken – ultimately by you – to another level; or it is simply time to bring about radical change; consider this quote by Francis of Assisi and then the following six points: “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” “Impossible” is what you and your team are expected to do these days.

The first three points must be in place as a foundation, and then you can exponentially build on it with points 3-6:

1. Ensure you are accepted as the leader. Do your organization, people and stakeholders accept you as their leader unreservedly, not because you hold the title but because they know you understand the essence of why the organization exists; the inherent culture of the organization; the current overall direction it is taking; the needs of the people; the systems, procedures and structures of the organization? And, of course, the reason you understand is because you have taken the time, and continue taking the time to listen, engage, and ask questions of and at every level of the organization.

2. You have credibility from a managerial, functional and even technical point of view. In other words, you may understand the above, but is the business performing from a systems, procedures, policies and technical, functional angle? If so you have ‘management/technical credibility’. You know this part of the business and can engage your employees confidently with the right and relevant questions at any level.

3. You have credibility as a leader. You know consciously how you lead; what your leadership philosophy is. If asked what it is you can share it with confidence and clarity. In essence, you lead consciously and not by default. The business performs not only because it has a great product, offers a relevant service, has a workable strategy, and the managerial, functional and technical components work, but also because you lead it and its people effectively. Everyone knows one of the reasons why the organization is successful enough is because of your leadership.

Alright, now that you can tick these three boxes it is time to move to another level that will potentially leapfrog your organization ahead of its environment and other players in your industry – points 4-6:

4. Work tirelessly to promote leadership as every employee’s “First Profession”. Every one of your people must understand that their technical/functional job is in fact their second profession. They are first and foremost a leader. That part of them that communicates, convinces, cares, persuades, shows empathy, processes and confronts obstacles, comes up with solutions, makes decisive decisions, creates movement, in fact every good part of them is their leadership part. This is the part that will differentiate them; this is the part that will add most value to their technical/functional part – their second profession. Junior and senior must come to realize that their “First Profession” is leadership; that the responsibility of leadership is not bound to title or position.

5. Take “First Profession Leadership” to a level required by the environment. In today’s highly competitive environment that is unprecedented, not only should individuals see themselves as leaders first, but they have to adopt a certain leadership philosophy. We call it Seamless Leadership – impossibility thinking and doing; no boundaries attitude; complexity management; ability to simplify; essence, big picture and universal thinking. You and your team will have to set the tone and standard here. The fact that your team members have been on many leadership programs over the years does not mean they can think and act like this. It takes time, practice, humility and courage to shift from an everyday leadership attitude to a Seamless Leadership attitude.

6. Ensure your leaders are “Leadership Fit”. You and they should not only be technically/functionally fit (competent and current) but also leadership fit – competent and confident to lead or move their respective area and people towards extraordinary – the perceived “impossible”. Leadership fit means you take leadership development to a whole new dimension, at every level of your organization. It means you not only send your leaders on ad hoc leadership programs but that leadership conversations become part and parcel of your organizational culture. As much as technical/functional conversations are held in the business, leadership conversations happen concurrently and are level appropriate. For example, when you sit down with one of your executives for feedback on her functional area, at that level most of the conversation is around leadership because 80% of her job is about leadership. Managers across the organization hold not only one on one functional conversations with their reports, but also leadership conversations. Leaders regularly study up on leadership and discuss and debate with one another. KPA’s measure leadership competency directly, rather than functional performance only. In short, leadership study, thinking, discussing and behavior are daily habits rather than an ad hoc occurrence. Leadership development matches or exceeds technical development because it is core to your culture.

If as the leader you can tick these boxes, chances are your people and organization is ‘match-fit’ for the current environment. In fact you may even have leapfrogged your environment and be ahead of it and other players in your industry. If you can achieve all six points above you may very well have created a lasting success culture; a self-perpetuating Seamless Leadership culture that mutates the organization into whatever it needs in order to stay ahead in an unpredictable, ever changing world.

Malema article that appeared in City Press. Whether you like, hate or respect him, he is part of your big picture. Understanding him more can only be a good thing

Article – Asking the right questions as a leader

Kgalema Motlanthe article that appeared in Business Report. We touched on South Africa’s leadership heritage

Conversation on Impossibility Thinking and Doing

For more on creating “Leadership Fit” leaders with an “achieving the impossible” mindset, that generate successful movement (performance) inside your organisation, contact me personally on adriaan@leadershipplatform.com or call me on +27 (0)823787729




Adriaan, as an accomplished author and leadership advisor, has been interviewing and working with top leaders for more than 15 years. He is the Co-Founder and CEO of Leadership Platform. (Twitter: @AdriaanG_LP)

Call: +27 (0)12 653 3022
Email: info@leadershipplatform.com

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Leadership Platform is a specialist leadership development consultancy, focusing on creating measurable impact to the bottom line through the enhancement of leadership understanding and engagement.


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