The Leadership Code

Research suggests successful leaders focus on:

  • Shaping the future AND Making things happen today
  • Engaging today’s talent AND Building the Next Generation
  • Investing in themselves

Apparently the principles above cover about two thirds of what it takes to be an effective leader. The remaining ingredients are individual ‘differentiators’. This acknowledges that two people with vastly different styles can each be good leaders – what unites these different people is their focus on these principles, which are discussed in a little more detail below:

Shape the Future

To be a successful leader you need to determine clearly where you want to go. Four strategy principles linked to this are:

  • Develop a point of view about your future (after seeing possibilities from a wide variety of viewpoints);
  • Invite your savviest outsiders in (getting input from smart people outside the organisation);
  • Engage the organisation (solicit help and advice from as many people as possible);
  • Create strategic traction within the organisation (get all levels within the organisation sharing the vision)

Make things Happen

Great leaders make decisions, see them implemented and hold themselves accountable. They are able to sift through vast amounts of information and decide what is important to focus upon. They constantly seek feedback on actions taken and create a mutually supportive atmosphere.

Engage Today’s Talent

Effective leaders help align roles and tasks with abilities and competencies, and create intellectual and emotional connections with people. So far as is possible, they provide people with the right tools to undertake their job. They foster interesting, fun and rewarding work environments.

Build the Next Generation

Great leaders understand the make-up of their organisation – 10% to 20% hold crucial jobs. The rest of the staff fulfill either supporting or non-essential positions. Great leaders are able to match ‘A Players’ with crucial roles. People feel challenged, yet they have support from coaching and mentoring programmes that are taken seriously. Where possible, leaders create incentives where people share in the organisation’s success.

Invest in Yourself

Effective leaders are self aware and a desire for self improvement. They are naturally curious and have learning ‘agility’.  [Bob’s note – Joining MD2MD is a great way of achieving this one!]


The above analysis is drawn from a book called Leadership Code: The Five Things Great Leaders Do by authors David Ulrich, Norm Smallwood and Kate Sweetman.  They reviewed the literature on leadership and discovered the five essential rules above.

The review itself is based on an article ‘Cultural Intelligence’ the newsletter of Steve Simpson and was used with his permission.  Steve is a great speaker who spoke to MD2MD a few years ago,  on his topic of UGRs – The unwritten ground rules.

Bob Bradley

Bob is a specialist in running high value added service businesses, having run five such businesses as General Manager, Managing Director or Chief Executive. His last employed role was as Chief Executive of a £16M, 200 person family owned business having previously been Chief Executive of an AIM listed company for which he raised £5M funding and which he grew from £4M to £12M in three years through two acquisitions and organic growth, and a corporate PLC subsidiary where he was Managing Director responsible for delivering £10M profit on £45M turnover through 450 staff.

Bob is now following a portfolio career providing entrepreneurial business leaders with mentoring and coaching around business leadership, business growth, merger integration and exit planning.

Core to his portfolio is MD2MD. Having experienced for himself the value of having a strong sounding board of fellow Managing Directors he founded MD2MD in 2004 to provide groups of business leaders with a confidential environment within which they can support and challenge each other to raise their game as leaders and by doing so improve the success of their organisation.

More about Bob

MD2MD membership

  • You meet your peer group privately for structured confidential conversations about real business challenges. You meet online for 90 minutes every 3 weeks.
  • You attend one of a selection of open workshops led by top professional speakers sharing best practice on a wide range of leadership topics.
  • You join our annual conference LeaderFest and our annual ‘Retreat to advance’.
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