Leaders, Can the focus on results backfire?

You can feel it in the air. This organization is about results.

Everyone is business-like and there is a focus on targets and deadlines.

Accountability is high on the agenda and performing well in the context of KPIs is a prerequisite for career advancement.

Such organizations assume that their success is best secured by adopting a result-focused leadership style. However, this approach might actually be limiting their growth and long-term possibilities.

There are alternative ways of leading an organization and focusing on specific outcomes can often lead to failure or less than optimal results. In this article, we discuss how a result-focused leadership styles can negatively affect organizational growth and performance.

Task First

Under result-focused leadership a task-oriented approach is preferred. Team members are assigned tasks aligned to specific results and the focus is on tracking and accountability.

This tends to create an environment in which team members only retain their position in the organization by achieving set targets under a regime of rigorous supervision and even micromanagement.

This approach can deliver solid short-term results and consistency in achieving established objectives. This makes for good reading in the resumes of the leadership corps but is it good for the long-term health of the organization?

What then is the downside? Is the goal not to achieve results?

The downside of this approach is that it can lead to tunnel vision and expose vulnerability at a time when resilience is a sought-after characteristic in organizations.

Leaders and team members lose sight of the big picture and how their individual tasks or results contribute to bringing the vision to fruition. The focus becomes too narrowly defined and all systems and energies are geared to achieving specific outcomes without creativity, flexibility or innovation.

Result-focused leadership styles can also lead to a lack of ownership and further fuel the low employee-engagement challenge.

People First

The people-first versus task-dominant approach is a better alternative. Leaders are allowed to focus on their team members rather than tasks and the responsibility for results lies with empowered teams as opposed to blinkered individuals.

In this environment, team members collaborate more effectively because they recognize that their success depends upon the efforts of others and that in turn enhances growth opportunities within an organization.

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Engagement, Empowerment and Resilience

This people-first approach is a better fit for an organization that desires to engage its people and unleash their potential. Team members feel empowered in this environment, which makes them more resilient because they are able to adapt quickly to new developments and challenges.

Leaders who adopt the people-centered leadership style reap rich rewards in terms of:

  1. greater competence and operational effectiveness from empowered team members
  2. increased levels of engagement and ownership among the team
  3. greater capacity for self-directed work
  4. more time for strategic thinking and higher-level activities (instead of micromanagement).

Any company that wishes to achieve long-term success should adopt a people-first strategy. This informed option allows leaders and team members to concentrate on their strengths and develop competencies while also facilitating creativity, innovation, and resilience.

When individuals feel acknowledged and are given the opportunity to do their best work, organizations experience improved engagement, productivity, and profitability.