What is your most important priority as a leader in 2017?

Every business we work with today is experiencing major competition and change. Under this constant pressure everyone is striving to stay ahead.

Despite this, many leaders still limit their search for competitive advantage to conventional and largely exhausted areas like marketing, strategy and technology.

It’s not that these aren’t important. They are and always will be. But the obvious is being ignored. In every organisation there is an untapped gold mine sitting right beneath every leader.

Becoming a healthy organisation is how to access this gold.

As Patrick Lencioni asserts, instead of trying to become smarter (most organisations have enough of this already) leaders must shift their focus to becoming a healthier organisation, allowing them to tap into the more-than-sufficient intelligence and expertise they already have.

One of our clients is a well-known South African company.

They have great marketing, a distinctive strategy and the very best technology and systems in the world. Their products are stunning and they have terrific employee benefits and perks.

Yet there is also mistrust and fear. They are bedeviled by silos, turf wars and internal competition that wither away goodwill, damage trust and cause good team members to disengage.

In their marketplace there is what they describe as ‘hyper competition’. It’s real and it’s relentless. Areas where they have dominated for many years are for the first time being seriously challenged by global players. Yet just when they need every ounce of resourcefulness, initiative and commitment on the inside, people are holding back,

Morale and productivity – which should be high – as it is when people pull together to unify against a common threat, is low and in its place is ambiguity, victimism and interdepartmental rivalries.

This is only good for their competitors. Good people are leaving (or thinking seriously about it) taking valuable skills and years of hard earned experience with them.

They are also troubled by a recent survey that reveals that very few people in middle management aspire to become senior leaders in the organisation. This gap between top management and those close to the front line is worrying and has a big effect on productivity.

Ironically the leaders are really great people. I know them personally – predictably they too are also not having much fun.

It does not have to be like this.

For this organisation the warning bells have sounded and they have begun to take action.

What is your most important priority as a leader in 2017?

Will this be the year that you tap into the gold mine inside your organisation? Take up the challenge and use 2017 to defy and attack the root causes of dysfunction, politics and confusion inside your organisation?

  • Imagine if you got everyone rowing in the same direction?
  • Imagine if everyone was crystal clear on the goals and what your business needs to do to succeed?
  • Imagine teams where people submerge their egos, co-ordinate seamlessly, support each other selflessly and do whatever it takes to succeed?
  • Imagine too a genuinely cohesive team at the top. Where all the executives are on the same page, setting the tone, standard and pace in a credible and unifying way for every other person in your organisation.

Nothing about this work is touchy-feely or soft.

It is as tangible and practical as anything else a business does, and even more important.

When politics, ambiguity, dysfunction and confusion are reduced to a minimum, people are released to concentrate on the customer, empowered to design products, solve problems and help one another in ways that unhealthy organisations can only dream about.

Yes it takes hard work, commitment and courage – anything that’s really worthwhile does. The rewards for everyone are immense and when you do you will be satisfied that you have fulfilled the most important leadership responsibility of all – to create an environment of success.

Next time we will write about how to start.

We love hearing from you. Please share your thoughts on this post with us below. Do you think building a healthy organisation is the most important leadership responsibility of all?

If you’d like to be in touch please call me on +27 82 894 4288 or mail me on grant@leadershipworks.co.za.


  1. DALE HILLARY 31 January 2017 at 3:42 pm - Reply

    A really great article! So important and thought provoking…yet an area that is so often overlooked within organisations.
    Best regards,


  2. Eric Shozi 31 January 2017 at 5:02 pm - Reply

    We need to always stay positive and face the challenge as is. Surely 2017 will not be worse than 2016. Unfortunately, whether we like or not, whether we chose or not, other people’s ill-discipline will have a negative impact on our normal day-to-day activities.

  3. Frances Fish 31 January 2017 at 7:07 pm - Reply

    All the best for 2017 Grant and Mary.
    Trust you’re well. Thank you- this is an excellent article reminding us to focus on the very important aspects of building committed teams by strengthening relationships through fair, honest, open, respectful, communication and interaction whether verbal or non verbal.
    It arrived just in time as we are facing internal changes and neglecting the team and their concerns. Regards, Frances.

  4. Clive Hawkins 8 February 2017 at 12:41 pm - Reply

    Great article Grant and so true of many organizations…all the words you use are simple, factual, and should be the foundation of any successful organization….such a pity though, that even those businesses that know what the issues are, and how they should change, that they “fall back” to the “old ways”

    • Grant Ashfield 8 February 2017 at 2:32 pm - Reply

      Thank you for your comments on our post Clive. Yes old habits do die hard – the top team has to be very convicted and unified about what it wants and at one level intolerant of old ways that no longer serve the future.

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