“The great mobility of the King forms one of the chief characteristics of all endgame strategy. In the middlegame the King is a mere 'super,' in the endgame on the other hand—one of the 'principals.' We must therefore develop him; bring him nearer to the fighting line.” —Aaron Nimzowitsch I like to use metaphors to articulate broad concepts. These metaphors (from previous issues of ICOSA) can be used to describe the processes of running a successful business. In my opinion, business is not much different from many board games—particularly chess. The infrastructure in this case is a board with 64 squares arranged eight by eight and alternating black and white. I often use the strategy of chess in everyday business life, and in this case, I use metaphors to describe the power of each chess piece.
The chess piece of the king represents the leader. The king is the figurehead but not necessarily the most influential player on the board. His presence is vital for the game to continue. The king sets the course and leadership toward the achievement of the organization’s vision, mission, philosophy, strategy and annual goals and objectives. The king—otherwise known as the chief executive officer—sets the direction by deciding which markets the company will enter, what companies are considered competitors, and what product lines will address the most needs of the market.
My job as a CEO is primarily six things: create a vision, align resources to accomplish the vision, transform the vision, develop the infrastructure that allows the vision to happen, and maintain continuity throughout. In this case, I recommend John C. Maxwell’s book The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential. Maxwell believes the five levels of leadership include 1) position; 2) permission; 3) production; 4) people development; and 5) pinnacle. In the position level, people follow because they have to. In the permission level, people follow because they want to. In the production level, people follow because of what you have done for the organization. In the people development level, people follow because of what you have done for them. In the pinnacle level, people follow because of who you are and what you represent.
Leadership, therefore, consists of taking action to clarify the vision. Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers; they can cut through an argument or debate to offer a solution everyone can understand. They also know how to stimulate and contain the forces of invention and change and to shift the process from one stage to the next. The task of a leader is ingenuity, resources and energy to change various circumstances. An assessment of strengths, weaknesses, skills, blind spots and a state of mind regularly occurs. Failing to assess these areas creates the possibility of hindering rather than assisting progress. This occurs when your existing bias does not match the reality of the current situation. In the ever-changing environment in which we find ourselves, the need for frequent assessment is even more critical to success.
The result? Clarity of purpose, credibility leadership and integrity.
Throughout previous issues of ICOSA, we have discussed the importance of infrastructure, resources, vision, transformation, continuity and the 4 I’s (information, ideas, intelligence and innovation)—all collaborative principles I believe have driven the success of our company. I also believe that applying collaborative principles to leadership allows for better direction. A leader must provide structure and infrastructure; coordinate resources by assembling and aligning the necessary resources; provide vision and inspire by looking at the past, the present and the future; take that strategy and execute it; continue to do the right things effectively; and finally empower and motivate various stakeholder groups.
The role of leadership is to imagine an enhanced future and become the transformation that makes the forthcoming conceivable. This is true of a business, a community or our personal life. Leaders work to get the best out of people. Therefore, all stakeholders are like chess pieces. Even though each person has different skills, authority, power, responsibility, strengths, weaknesses and potential, he or she each has a place to add value. If you, the king/leader, put the correct team member in the right place, everyone benefits from the talent and potential. They are the ones looking to the future by knowing the next move!
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