By Colin Price & Sharon Toye

In a world where capital is effectively priced at zero, as much as 30 percent of bottom line performance stems from the leadership’s ability to harness and implement ideas better than its competitors. Yet most companies say their leaders reliably reap only 50 percent of the full potential of their people.

So what’s the secret trick?

According to Heidrick & Struggles’ latest book Accelerating Performance, successful leaders have excellent execution strategies and a core group of accelerating mindsets. These successful leaders typically follow five golden rules:

  1. Get the Right Team

You can’t move the needle on your own, so need the right team. Quickly move people out of the team if they are not performing or are not a good fit, and develop capabilities of team members as quickly as possible.

Executives often tell us they regret moving too slowly to restructure their teams. Executives almost never tell us they regret moving too fast.

  1. Set Strategic Priorities

Work out what three to five things you and your team can do that will move the company forward. Get them right, and you have a natural energy to execute. Get them wrong, and you get confusion.

Remember that setting priorities is imperative, but don’t take more than six months to determine priorities. Engage your entire team in the process, and make sure that the business case is right.

  1. Properly Plan

Take time to develop a strong execution plan. Set measurable and clear key performance indicators, and allocate responsibilities and accountabilities. Set a regular operating strategy for delivering, and constantly measure against the plan.

When Alan Mulally became CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes in 2001, a time when the division of Boeing was having trouble executing, he set a goal. If Boeing could get one plane a day out of manufacturing and off to a customer, the business would thrive. Mulally then set up a meeting of his top team every morning to discuss what they needed to remove obstacles and achieve that goal. There was no delaying days or weeks; if you promised to do something, you had to face your colleagues again the next morning and report on what you had done. Mulally got the strategy he needed.

  1. Adopt Rigorous Strategy and Processes

Establish a fit-for-purpose strategy of meetings. Map out your annual calendar of meetings and  never miss one.

If someone can’t come to a meeting, insist on a fully briefed alternative. Start (and end!) on time and have only people on the call or in the meeting who need to be there. Use these meetings to be in control of execution, to troubleshoot problems, and to challenge, support, and coach. Be sure that you are one of those leaders who does less telling and more asking.

  1. Generate Energy

Leaders who sustain energy and optimism by managing stress levels are much more evident in accelerating companies than derailing companies. We’ve all been around leaders who we refer to as “mood Hoovers”—people who suck the energy out of a room or the people they work with. You feel tired after five minutes around these leaders. On the other hand, those who manage their energy and point it in the most useful direction accelerate the creation of value.

Energetic leaders have authenticity, a clear purpose, passion for that purpose, discipline, and excitement around possibility and opportunity. The energy of a leader spins out into an organization from the most senior levels to the front line and across internal and external organizational boundaries.

It’s viral. It creates a social movement within organizations that infuses customers, stakeholders, regulators, and opinion formers. Leaders who create energy prepare for every moment, meeting, and conversation in which they can bring energy into the organization. This contributes significantly to acceleration. This is how the leader sets the pace.

We think of the goal here as exothermic, not endothermic, leadership — in other words, leaders who produce more energy than they consume. There is no acceleration without energy.


You can’t know what the future will hold. However, building the discipline of adopting and maintaining accelerating mindsets enables leaders to meet with dexterity the ever-changing contexts and requirements within which they galvanize and lead those who follow them.

Think of yourself as sitting in a swivel chair—you can swivel between multiple different systems to make sense of things rather than having straight-through, simple processing. At the core is your ability to be agile as change erupts around you.

We set out to answer the following question: What are the few compelling shifts in mindsets that enable leaders to be agile in this way and, in turn, to set the pace in today’s ever-changing landscape? Our answer can be found in the table below:

Shifting to an accelerating mind-set

Derailing leaders’ mindsets Accelerating leaders’ mindsets
I need to know the answer. I need to constantly discover patterns and connect the dots.
These are my resources. My job is to optimally match resources to opportunities.
It’s either/or. How do I dissolve the paradox?
I have the power and authority.        Working through a traditional hierarchy takes too much time.
I need to know. Doubt is powerful.
It’s okay to be grumpy. I’m on 24/7, and what I do impacts every second.
I don’t have enough time to be a good leader. Creating leadership is my goal.
I know myself well. Feedback is a gift.

Leading an organization to thrive in the volatile world we live in requires excellent execution strategies and an “accelerating mindset.” Remember, simple changes could lead to big rewards!

About the book: Accelerating Performance: How Organizations Can Mobilize, Execute, and Transform with Agility By Colin Price and Sharon Toye. Accelerating Performance gives leaders a step-by-step framework for taking action and transforming their organizations, teams, and even themselves—starting today.


About the author: Heidrick & Struggles serves the executive talent and leadership needs of the world’s top organizations as a premier provider of leadership consulting, culture-shaping and senior-level executive search services. Heidrick & Struggles pioneered the profession of executive search more than 60 years ago. Today, the firm serves as a trusted advisor, providing integrated leadership solutions and helping its clients change the world, one leadership team at a time.


Posted by Colin Price & Sharon Toye