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Harry Hertz


Leadership Behaviors That Count

... and benefit all organizations

Published: Thursday, October 8, 2015 - 13:04

As the following diagram of the Baldrige framework indicates, the basis of the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence is a set of core values and concepts that are embedded in high-performing organizations.

These core values and concepts (listed below) are the foundation for integrating key operational requirements within a results-oriented framework that creates a basis for action.

Under the auspices of the Baldrige Foundation, a set of leadership behaviors has been developed to reinforce these core values in high-performing organizations. They are behaviors that typify role-model leaders and can form the basis for leadership development and senior leadership team design. Senior leaders should build their own strength in these behaviors and also make sure that the leadership teams under them increases their strengths as well.

The leadership behaviors

The leadership behaviors are aligned with the 11 Baldrige core values and concepts listed below. Although all of the behaviors are important, it’s critical that senior leaders possess and personally exhibit the executive behaviors associated with visionary leadership, systems perspective, ethics and transparency, and delivering value and results. They are central to the role of an effective leader. These behaviors are embodied in the “bookends” (the first two and last two) of the core values and concepts.

1. Visionary leadership
• Leads the organization in setting and owning organizational vision and values
• Guides the creation of strategies, systems, and methods to ensure ongoing organizational success
• Creates and ensures a supportive and collaborative environment
• Inspires the organization and others to achieve high performance
• Engages in personal learning, seeking input from others

2. Systems perspective
• Sets a systems perspective across the organization so that the organization and all of its parts are viewed as a whole
• Causes holistic thinking and cross-functional synthesis, alignment, and integration
• Requires a focus on strategic direction and customers to improve overall performance

3. Customer-focused excellence
• Builds a customer-focused culture and integrates customer engagement as a strategic concept
• Anticipates changing and emerging customer and market requirements
• Ensures differentiation from competitors through the development of organizational knowledge, skills, and core competencies

4. Valuing people
• Builds and fosters an organizational culture that focuses on the engagement, development, and well-being of workforce members
• Creates an organizational environment that is safe, trusting, and cooperative
• Builds partnerships with internal and external people and organizations
• Capitalizes on the diversity of the workforce and partners

5. Organizational learning and agility
• Develops a capacity for rapid change and for flexibility in operations
• Leads and inspires the organization to make transformational changes despite ever-shorter cycle times
• Creates an empowered workforce that effectively uses evolving organizational knowledge
• Embeds learning in the way the organization operates

6. Focus on success
• Creates a focus on short- and longer-term factors that affect the organization and its future marketplace success
• Leads the pursuit of improvement and innovation
• Ensures that organizational planning anticipates future marketplace and technological influences

7. Managing for innovation
• Builds an environment that empowers the workforce to take intelligent risks
• Enables innovation to flourish and create value for stakeholders

8. Management by fact
• Compels the organization to measure performance both inside the organization and in its competitive environment
• Uses data and analysis in decision making
• Challenges the organization to extract larger meaning from data and information

9. Societal responsibility
• Acts as a role model for public responsibility and actions leading to societal well-being and benefit
• Motivates the organization to excel beyond minimal compliance with laws and regulations
• Drives environmental, social, and economic betterment of the community as a personal and organizational goal

10. Ethics and transparency
• Requires highly ethical behavior in all organizational activities and interactions
• Requires organizational integrity
• Leads with transparency through open communication of clear and accurate information

11. Delivering value and results
• Leads the organization to achieve excellent performance results
• Defines and drives the organization to exceed stakeholder requirements and realize value

Some research

For the past two years, the Baldrige Executive Fellows have been ranking these leadership behaviors, indicating those in which they are strong and those in which they would most like (or need) to develop further ability. Interestingly, within the group of approximately 30 fellows, there was significant agreement in the rankings. Their top two areas of strength were the behaviors associated with visionary leadership and valuing people. For the 2015 fellows, the ethics and transparency category was also among the top strengths. This core value was broken out from visionary leadership in 2015; thus the 2014 fellows did not see this core value on their list. In the areas they feel they need to build greater competency, fellows in both cohort years included customer-focused excellence, systems perspective, managing for innovation, and organizational learning and agility.

Of the four core values designated as essential behaviors for senior leaders, two were designated as strengths by the group (visionary leadership and ethics and transparency), one as an area for learning emphasis (systems perspective), and one was considered an adequate skill (delivering value and results). In five studies of 2015 CEO challenges and opportunities, the one opportunity mentioned in all five was the need to build stronger customer relationships. This need ties directly to the Baldrige fellows’ perceived need to build greater competency in customer-focused excellence. They apparently share a common need with the thousands of senior executives in the five studies. This need for senior executives is based on several factors: customers setting higher expectations, customers wanting customization in offerings, and the greater availability of data and analytics that can be used to understand individual and aggregated customers.

The five studies also emphasized senior executives’ opportunities in the areas of ethics and creativity, closely tied to core values the Baldrige fellows identified as a strength (ethics and transparency) and as a need (managing for innovation and organizational learning and agility).

In 2010, Joe Folkman published a study of the top nine leadership behaviors that drive employee commitment. The study gathered data from nearly 10,000 direct reports. Folkman focused on leadership behaviors that drove employee commitment because leadership effectiveness increased productivity and profitability, even in difficult times. Seven of the nine behaviors identified were embodied in the leadership behaviors associated with visionary leadership, valuing people, and ethics and transparency. The overlap in this study with the data already presented gives a broader sense of the importance of these specific behaviors.

Innovation is inherent in a learning organization. As indicated above, recent Baldrige fellows have recognized the importance of learning and innovation to the future success of their organizations and have seen these areas as current challenges for them. There have been numerous studies on the positive relationship between organizational learning and innovation, as well as the effect on organizational performance (see, for example, this study in the Journal of Business Research). Although the behaviors associated with all 11 Baldrige core values are important, these studies give particular focus to the need for leadership strengths in the areas of setting vision, ethics and transparency, a systems perspective on their organization, delivering organizational value and results, organizational innovation and learning, valuing people, and building customer relationships.

Your leadership opportunities

We all have the opportunity to improve our leadership skills. Here are some suggestions based on the information above:
1. Look at your leadership behavior strengths and opportunities relative to the 11 Baldrige core values and concepts.
2. Pay particular attention to the three core values that Baldrige fellows have indicated as personal strengths and that Folkman says are important: visionary leadership, valuing people, and ethics and transparency.
3. Evaluate your opportunity to enhance customer-focused excellence, an opportunity for Baldrige fellows and a key opportunity for senior executives broadly.
4. Look at the behaviors associated with the two remaining Baldrige core values designated as essential behaviors: systems perspective and delivering value and results.
5. Evaluate your behaviors that encourage organizational learning and agility and managing for innovation. They almost certainly affect the future success of your organization.

Set your personal learning agenda based on enhancing your strengths and addressing key opportunities. You and your organization will benefit.


About The Author

Harry Hertz’s picture

Harry Hertz

Harry Hertz retired in June 2013 from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), where he had served as director of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program since 1995. For more than 15 years he was the primary architect of the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence, responsible for expansion of the Baldrige Program and Award to healthcare, education, and nonprofits, including government. Hertz serves on the advisory group for VHA’s Center for Applied Healthcare Studies, and on the adjunct faculty of American University. He has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, and a Ph.D. from M.I.T.