Great Leadership Moves An Organization Forward by Turning Imagination into Reality…

These 5 Things Can Cause Serious Growth

By Phil Liebman, Founder & CEO, The BullFrogGroup

Many companies today are either stuck in ruts, suffering from stalled growth or just growing at a pace far below their potential. With rare exceptions – the marketplace isn’t anxious to reward companies that demonstrate mediocre performance with rapid growth. Anyone who leads any viable company knows that driving consistent exceptional performance is no easy task. It may be the Holy Grail of business growth.

There is no easy fix for mediocrity and no shortcut to creating high-performance in an organization. In fact, even knowing what to do provides no certainty that you can improve your company’s performance. Driving change at this magnitude requires the kind of highly effective leadership that is formed by having the necessary habits of thinking, the ability to become the kind of leader capable of finding or improvising the tools required to drive his or her organization’s growth and then making it both possible and necessary for changes to take place. This is the art of leadership, and is how leaders transform imagination into reality and create the future they choose.

Leadership at this level must be capable of knowing what kind of future they must create, and be able to communicate and command the gravity needed to move people from their comfort zone to be willing to learn to perform at a level of competence they themselves may not realize as their own potential. Leaders achieve this by holding themselves to a commitment of growth and learning and by embracing growth as a necessary foundation for life. Leadership matters.

The only way to achieve sustainable high performance is to create a fully competent organization, one that has competent leadership that can make high performance both necessary and possible. This means having competent people in every role at every level of the organization and smart systems that efficiently and effectively enable and support everything that the organization has to accomplish in order to achieve it’s fullest potential. High performance organizations, according to Dr. Lee Thayer, are the best at everything they do and get better every day in order to gain a sustainable competitive advantage.

These five prodders might help:

  1. Look in the Mirror – what do you see?

Stop thinking about what you should do, and instead focus on who you are. Are you equipped to do all and whatever it takes to develop yourself, develop your organization and develop your people? Do you have a clear sense of purpose that guides and drives you and your company? Do you clearly communicate that purpose in not only what you say – but more importantly how you show-up or behave – in essence – who you are? Competent leaders begin the journey of building a fully competent organization by mastering themselves – and learning what tools they need to build the rest. Are you the leader you need to – and can be? What would it take to be leadership virtuoso – and what responsibilities come with performing at that level?


  1. Stop Directing People with Job Descriptions – and Start Developing People Using Role Descriptions Instead

Job descriptions outline duties related to activities and responsibilities. Role descriptions speak to accomplishments and direct the expansion of potential.

It is not the description of the documents that matters. It is the clear difference in purpose and function. We may infer accomplishments and performance standards in stated job descriptions, but the basic instincts of most people is to retreat to the safety of doing what we are told, whereas accomplishing things of real import generally goes farther than that.

Performance is not a function of intention. Nor is it about action or activity. Performance is all about results, which is what we actually accomplish – not what we aim for. It is in vogue to establish a vision and mission – even set goals for accomplishments – without ever accomplishing their stated objectives. We may feel good about our intentions – but unless your company can somehow entice the marketplace to reward you for making employees feel good – it is not a measure of performance. In fact – employees feel good about what they are doing – when they are fully competent in doing it. Coupled with specific performance goals – and learning plans focused on developing competence, role descriptions begin the transform the culture of the organization towards high performance.

Do you know what your role is and what your role description would be? How about the role description for your company?

  1. Eliminate Dumb Systems and Replace Them With Smart Ones

To be driven by meaningful accomplishments – fully competent organizations need to be efficacious and employ systems that enhance the ability of competent people to perform at their best. Smart systems make actions taken more effective and more efficient. Dumb systems frustrate competent people, impeding their performance. They also make incompetent people even more incompetent, typically sheltering them with excuses for unacceptable performance.

There are many reasons that organizations are replete with dumb systems. Typically the reason is legacy thinking: the determination to do things the way they have always been done. That’s not just lazy and mindless – it is insidious in that it tends to demonstrate a tolerance for incompetence and an endorsement of mediocre performance and worse. Efficacious systems are by definition purposeful in addition to being effective and efficient.

Do you have dumb systems dragging on your people and your company’s performance?

  1. Knock Knowing Out Of The Way of Learning

There is a defect in our modern human nature that informs us to stop learning when we feel we know. We tend to feed our minds the way we feed our stomachs: we stop when we feel satiated. Knowing tends to create certainty – while learning demands curiosity and confirms our uncertainty. The more we know, the more comfortable we become and the less apt we are to learn. Curiosity becomes muted by validation, and even attaining so-called mastery gets in the way of virtuoso performance (the virtuoso is never satisfied with her performance and constantly strives for improvement, usually beyond what anyone else can teach).

The leader’s role includes making learning and growth necessary. This requires a constant effort to combat the status quo and to push people free of their comfort zones. Leaders are especially susceptible to living in the comfortable mode of knowing. We often feel that our role is to have the answers, to be able to safely guide others with what we know and that with our knowledge we offer people security and confidence in our leadership. It is actually quite the opposite. Leaders need to be exemplars of constant learning and growth. We need to make people understand the questions are not just the genesis of learning – they are the product of learning. Learning yields the ability to ask better, more informed and more consequential questions. Make learning a way of life – for yourself – and everyone you care about.

Have you stopped learning? What do you want to be when you grow up?

  1. Be Ruthless In Your Caring…

Success is borne from purpose. There is no greater source of satisfaction than living a life of purpose. Purpose is what informs values and drives our habits. It drives us from our beds in the morning and keeps us working late into the night. Purpose enables us to strive to improve ourselves – and stretch our personal boundaries. Without purpose we have nothing to aim for – and without aim there is no way to measure accomplishment. Life presents one problem after another. Purpose is what helps us choose what problems we would prefer to have – and what we are willing to do and sacrifice in order to solve them – knowing that by doing so – we are simply endlessly cause new problems to exist. The greater and the nobler one’s purpose – the harder we fight to accomplish whatever that purpose demands of us.

In as much as leadership matters, what you care about matters too. It’s not unusual for people who reach a certain level of material success in the world – to feel the need to adopt a cause. Many do so the way people adopt pets. It makes them feel good, gives them a sense of purpose through something that will appreciate you taking care of them – and provides good “optics.” But adopted pets can be abandoned or given away when they become inconvenient, burdensome or no longer useful. But there are causes that are unshakable in people. People don’t adopt these causes; people are adopted and driven by them. It becomes the why in what we do and provides the necessity that enables us to make seemingly impossible things entirely possible.

What you care about and how ruthlessly you care also helps mold the competence of your organization. We cultivate competence in people when you care about theme to the extent that you will not accept less than their potential – and are willing to invest yourself and the resources needed to bring about that potential. And for those who won’t or can’t we understand that we are doing them no favors by coddling their incompetence – and remove them. Accepting people’s mediocrity is depriving them of the opportunity to know what they are made of and fully capable of – and that we actually cause people to be victims by allowing them to choose to be victims. Great leaders are relentless people-makers – because what they care about makes how they care necessary – and constantly expands what is possible in people, systems, organizations and the world.

What do you care most deeply about? Why does it matter? How does it matter to you and to the world?


Parting Thoughts: Great Leaders Ask Great Questions

Did you find anything new worth knowing in these 5 points? If so – what questions might demonstrate what you have learned? Remember, questions are both the genesis of learning – as well as the product. Who would benefit from your sharing those questions with?

What do you disagree with? What might be good questions that explores why you disagree? We learn nothing by validating what we already know. It is where we have our current thinking challenged – that learning can take place.


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For a free consultative evaluation and to learn about how you can make your company more competent and raise the level of performance – contact Phil Liebman by email at – or by phone at 845.782.0178.

Phil Liebman is a Fellow at The Thayer Institute for Leadership Virtuosity and a leadership performance coach and catalyst. He is also a Group Chair with Vistage International where he leads CEO Peer groups and coaches top level executives. You can learn more by visiting