In his engaging TEDx talk titled "How to Become a Highly Effective Leader," Patrick Flesner unveils his unique growth mindset leadership philosophy and introduces The Leadership House framework, an innovative approach to leadership development. Throughout the talk, Patrick passionately explores the eight essential elements of effective leadership, each a cornerstone in building successful teams and accelerating business growth.
This insightful talk is more than a theoretical overview; it's a practical guide filled with actionable insights and real-world wisdom. Whether you're an aspiring leader embarking on your leadership journey or an experienced executive looking to sharpen your leadership skills, Patrick Flesner's TEDx talk is a must-see resource.
We invite you to immerse yourself in Patrick Flesner's transformative ideas by watching the video or reading the transcript below. Allow the leadership house framework to resonate with you and inspire your own path towards becoming a highly effective leader.
Leadership TEDx Talk Transcript
How to Become a Highly Effective Leader
One of the most renowned global consulting firms asked more than 7,000 leaders from more than 100 countries: “Do you have the leadership capabilities required to overcome the challenges ahead?”
Only 17% of all executives replied, “definitely, yes!”
If you think you are among the 17%, among the very few who are at ease with leading people, groups, and organizations, do not relax! Most of the people in your teams and organizations do not feel the same way. They ponder “How do we become effective leaders? How do we lead effectively?” They look for answers. But the answers they get are dissatisfying. Because they are full of buzzwords and come pieces at a time. Here is how one leader summarized it:
“Patrick, leadership advice comes in piecemeal fashion. One day, I hear that I must be humble - and strong at the same time. The next day, I attend a leadership course and am told I must not micromanage but inspire and empower. And then, certainly, once a year, I am invited to a team offsite and participate in some trust building activities. However, as soon as I am back in the trenches, I just do what I have always been doing. I lead following my gut feeling.”
I have a lot of sympathy and understanding for this. While all the leadership advice we get may be good advice, it indeed comes in piecemeal fashion. It is unconsolidated advice that does not enable us to develop our leadership skills systematically.
I am here because I want to change this. Today, I am going to share with you a leadership development framework that we and our team members can follow systematically tomake the leap from student, founder, entrepreneur, manager, or executive to highly effective leader. The framework is called “The Leadership House”.
Like every house should be, also the leadership house is built on a solid foundation. And this solid foundation is trust.
The power of trust became obvious to me when I asked a leadership team what they believed was the main reason for their ultimate success. The CTO did not hesitate a second and replied, “The reason was trust. We built trusting relationships with each other. We let our egos take a back seat. We always focused on what was best for the team. We always played the ball, not the player.”
Trust is so powerful because it provides us with this strong feeling of safety, the feeling that the intentions of all our team members are good. In trusting relationships, it is never about the person, but always about the issue. Correspondingly, in safe environments, we do not waste time and energy watching our backs or playing political games but instead focus on getting things done. In trusting relationships, in safe environments, we thrive.
Based on trust, we can build a “strong team”. A “strong team” is the first pillar of the leadership house.
If I ask leaders how to build a strong team, the answer is often something like: “I hire the right people and put them in the right roles?” But is this really enough?
Just think about sports. How often have we seen teams consisting of the best individual players in the right positions lose against the clear underdogs? Many times. Obviously having the right people in the right roles is not enough. Obviously, there is a piece missing.
And James Hetfield, frontman of the heavy-metal band Metallica, has just recently explained what piece this is. He said that he and his colleagues were mediocre musicians. Only when they worked together, something special would happen. When they worked together. It is teamwork that can turn a set of individuals – even mediocre individuals - into a strong team. Teamwork is the missing piece.
If we want to build strong teams, we must have the right people in the right roles. And we must also ensure that the right people in the right roles collaborate.
In fact, having the right people has two dimensions: the first dimension is functional fit. Are our team members qualified for the roles? And the second – and at least as important - dimension is cultural fit. Are our team members aligned around shared values in terms of how we want to work together as a team?
A strong culture is a competitive advantage. A strong culture separates the best teams from the rest. This has been the result of many studies and has just recently been confirmed again by a McKinsey study having researched more than 1,000 organizations.
We generate a healthy and strong team culture in which our team members thrive by pursuing the following three steps:
1. Pursuing a compelling purpose (Why do we do what we do?)
2. Having an inspiring vision (What do we want to achieve?)
3. Working based on shared values (How do we want to achieve our vision… how do we want to work as a team?)
Let us stop here for a moment and imagine:
What if we went back to work on Monday and started building trusting relationships with our team members?
What if we went back and ensured we have the right people in the right roles?
And what if we ensured that the right people in the right roles share the same values, shared values, including teamwork?
I am convinced:
We could become more effective leaders, leaders capable of building strong teams.
Being capable of building strong teams, let’s ensure our strong teams turn purpose and vision into reality.
Purpose and vision are important. They inspire great talent to follow us. The problem with purpose and vision is that they are almost always too intangible. We cannot just tell our teams, “Here are purpose and vision, let’s make it happen!” First, we need to clarify the what, the what in terms what we must do to achieve our vision.
Many leaders I worked with thought that they had to tell their teams the what, what the team had to do.
But think about it for a second! What have we done so far? We have hired great people – people who are hopefully better skilled than we are, at least in their domain expertise. We have put them in the right roles and ensured they trust each other and embrace the same values, including teamwork. Why would we now want to tell them – this great team - what to do? This wouldn’t make any sense. I personally concur with what Steve Jobs said. “It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do."
I therefore suggest we do the same. We ask our team members about the what…what they believe we must do to turn purpose and vision into reality. What are the shared goakls qwe must pursue. This pillar of the leadership house is called “shared goals” because they are not just goals that we as leaders impose on our teams but goals that are being developed by our teams orchestrated by us as the leaders. As our team members develop the goals, the goals become their goals. Our team members become the owners of the goals and do whatever they can to achieve them. Psychologically powerful.
In my experience, we must take additional more step to turn vision into reality. We must ask our teams to also translate our shared goals into more granular “joint plans”.
“Joint plans” is the next pillar of the leadership house and show what each team and team leader must do – and this is important - do and deliver – in terms of results – so we achieve our shared goals.
Let me give you an example: Our teams could have come up with the shared goal that we must generate product/market fit. Our joint plan would now show what each team and team leader must do and deliver to generate product/market fit. Joint plans make execution possible.
Let us stop here for a moment again. And let us imagine:
What if we went back to work on Monday and stopped imposing goals on our strong teams and instead involved our strong teams in the goal-setting process?
What if we went back and ensured that our strong teams translate their shared goals into executable joint plans?
I am convinced:
Slowly but surely, we would become more effective leaders, leaders capable of making execution possible.
And the last three elements of the leadership house framework are exactly about this…about execution.
The first of these elements is “accountability”.
Accountability means that we hold our team members accountable for both the tasks and the results they achieve. This is also why it is so important that our joint plans do also show the results to be delivered.
If our joint plans do only show responsibilities but not the results our team members have to achieve, we may hear our team members say things like, “It’s not my fault that we didn’t achieve our joint plan. I’ve done what I was supposed to do”, or “This is not my responsibility.”
You won’t hear these things in teams that embrace accountability as a shared value. In teams in which “accountability” is a shared value, team members are measured by the results they achieve. Accordingly, you will see team members working towards results. They will ask for help if they realize they may not achieve the results they are supposed to achieve. And they will offer help if they realize the team may not achieve its shared goals due to a team member struggling. Accountability entices teamwork.
Some leaders shy away from holding their team members accountable because they feel uncomfortable leading these crucial conversations. But they do not have to, provided they have followed the leadership house framework so far. In safe environments determined by trust, team members know it is never about them… it is never about the person, but always about the issue and team success.
Certainly, we can only hold our team members accountable if we empower them accordingly. This is why “empowerment” is the last pillar of the leadership house.
The little detail that makes empowerment so powerful is not that we provide our team members with the tools and resources they need. The little powerful detail is that we enable them to make important decisions themselves.
Allowing our team members to make important decisions themselves may make us feel as if we were losing control, but, in fact, empowerment is not about losing control. Empowerment is about motivating and giving control… giving control to those who are best equipped to handle it… to our strong teams.
Finally, the roof of the leadership house. “Execution”, execution in the sense of overcoming our leadership challenges.
And we will encounter many challenges on our leadership path. We will face external challenges like the pandemic or a volatile macroeconomic environment… and we will face internal challenges like leadership-self doubts, conflicts in our teams, and having to lead crucial conversations. The list goes on.
However, to ensure we overcome these challenges, we must focus on what we can control. We cannot control the external challenges we face. We cannot control a pandemic or a volatile macroeconomic environment. But we can control our internal challenges. We can control how our teams and we as leaders cope with the external challenges. The leadership house framework will help us do so. It is a system we can follow the next time we face a leadership challenge or ponder how to lead effectively.
We lead effectively by building strong teams based on trust and shared values, by asking them to translate purpose and vision into more tangible shared goals and joint plans that we execute empowering our team members and holding them accountable.
Against this background, I would like us to imagine the following:
What if we went back to work on Monday and applied the leadership house framework in our teams?
And what if we went back and shared the leadership house framework with our team members and broader organizations?
I am convinced:
We would become more effective leaders, leaders capable of turning purpose and vision into reality.
I am convinced:
The leadership house framework would trickle-down our teams and organizations and turn followers into effective leaders themselves.
I am convinced:
We would build teams and organizations in which significantly more than 17% of all leaders are convinced they are well-prepared for the leadership challenges ahead.