Over the past six years the world has undergone massive de-leveraging as the downside of debt came home to roost for sovereign nations, public companies, and the average family household.  Lost in the news of the debt crisis and endless analysis of how things went so horribly wrong is potential upside of leverage.

Webster’s dictionary defines leverage as “advantage or power gained by using a lever.”  The lever itself, however, is not limited to debt.  Further, the quality of the asset to be leveraged makes all the difference.  It is unsustainable to lever subprime mortgages secured by inflated real estate.  However, truly effective organizations have mastered leverage by applying it to their most precious asset, people.

In his seminal book, The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge says, “Few, if any forces in human affairs are as powerful as shared vision.”  The lever of vision applied to the asset of people yields an advantage that is a most impressive creative power.  Yet if this is true, why are so many organizations dysfunctional?   The answer lies in the words of another genius of human behavior, Robert Fritz, author of The Path of Least Resistance.  “Process, process, process, and not a vision in sight” more accurately describes the typical daily grind experienced by the American workforce.

What’s missing is buy-in and buy-in only comes from people’s hearts.  A former boss of mine once told me, “Greg, you have to assume that people buy-in because they work here.”  Unfortunately that dangerous assumption prevails throughout corporate leadership today.  Perhaps what this boss really meant was, “In this economy, people are damn lucky to have a job.  If people don’t like how we run this place, where else will they go?”  The answer is so many other places where enlightened leaders know how to bring forth the very best from their people.  These leaders also know that business is cyclical.  Despite the experience of recent years, when things improve, and they will, it will be a sellers market for talent.

Most executives today are pressured to believe that measures of results are all that matter in this world of ubiquitous transparency and quarterly earning reports.  They default to forceful tactics like pushing harder for activity, imposing penalties and other behavior modifications.  Their culture becomes toxic and over time their best asset, which could have been effectively leveraged, slips away from them and the organization becomes walking dead.

Is your culture one where people will risk everything because they are passionately committed to your vision?  History is full of examples of people who did just that and changed the world.  Look no further than the zealotry of the founders of our country.  Their vision still captures the hearts of millions of people over two hundred years later!  Will yours?

The late David Hawkins said, “Power trumps force every time!”  When people throughout the ranks of an organization truly own the vision, sustainable results occur.  Power lies in your leadership ability to capture the hearts of your people.  Providing the roadmap and support to master this skill is the essence of what we do at IMP.






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