Are you building leaders of substance?

Who has had the biggest influence on your thinking about what a business leader is and does?

Ram Charan is at the top of my list.

He has been a trusted advisor to CEO’S for over 40 years. I love his practical, no-nonsense philosophy and approach.

His book, Execution, The Discipline of Getting Things Done is standard reading for how to deliver results.

But my favourite Charan book is simply called Know-How.

“We need leaders who know what they are doing” is its premise.

Know-how distinguishes leaders who perform over time from those who don’t.

Charan sets out 8 interrelated skills that must be learnt, practiced, honed, and mastered. These skills build two essential kinds of acumen – Business and People acumen.

Then he lays down the challenge …

“Will you be able to do the right things, make the right decisions, deliver results and leave your business and the people in it better off than they were before?”

So, here they are – the 8 Know-Hows that give substance to your leadership:

  1. Can you position your business by finding the central idea that meets customer needs and makes money? And can you appropriately reposition it, as will increasingly be required?
  2. Are you able to pinpoint external change by detecting patterns ahead of others and put your business on the offensive?
  3. Do you know how to lead the social system of your business by getting the right people together with the right behaviours to make better, faster decisions and achieve business results?
  4. Can you judge people by finding their best talents, based on facts and observations and match them with a job?
  5. Are you moulding a team by getting highly competent leaders to submerge their egos and co-ordinate seamlessly?
  6. Do you know how to develop goals by balancing what the business can become with what it can realistically achieve, not merely looking in the rear-view mirror and making incremental adjustments to what’s been done before?
  7. Can you set laser sharp priorities by defining the specific tasks that align resources, action and energy to accomplish the goals?
  8. Can you deal with forces beyond the market by creatively and positively responding to societal pressures you don’t control but that significantly impact your business?

Download: The 8 Know-Hows of a Business Leader

I love how he combines commercial insight and customer satisfaction (Business Acumen) with what he calls the social system of the business. (People Acumen)

Getting this combination right is how leaders create value.

What happens in reality?

Very often it’s the appearance of leadership that is rewarded.

Real leadership – the ability to perform over time – however is not about appearance. It’s about substance.

Substance is ultimately what distinguishes leaders who create long term value from those who don’t.

This is what must be rewarded.

That’s why these Know-Hows are so helpful.

What about your leaders?

  • Do they possess the know-how to unlock the full potential of your business?
  • Do they intimately understand your customer and how to position and reposition your business to meet their needs and make money?
  • Do they possess the knowledge and understanding of how to lead and inspire and to develop and grow talent?

There’s a lot to think about here.

Ultimately what is most important?

It’s that you are doing everything possible to help your leaders become leaders of substance.

To learn, practice, hone and ultimately master these 8 essential Know-Hows.

I predict that doing so will be the biggest difference you make to the future of your business.

We love to hear from you. Please comment below.

If you’d like to be in touch please call me on +27 82 894 4288 or mail me on

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