Can you imagine sailing in a ship that has no captain? Or being the member of a cricket team without a captain or a musician in an orchestra that has no conductor or a soldier in a battalion that has no commander?
The ship may sink, the cricket team will lose out, the orchestra will be a big cacophony and the battalion will feel lost.
Why then do we run business verticals and important departments without a full-time leader?
It starts with the leader
An entrepreneur starts a business and scales it up with a team. As the business grows, verticals and departments/functions get created, which are essential for smooth functioning. The problems start when there is no one to lead the teams.
Let us say a company has a business vertical that has dedicated people for sales, design, and manufacturing. They are all experts in their fields but there is nobody to direct and coordinate their efforts. Someone who has business sense, understands the market, customer, competition and how to leverage the team strengths to create success. In the absence of a leader, there will be infighting, wrong sale, missed deadlines, loss of business and customer dissatisfaction.
Let us take another example of a sales department that is functioning without a leader. There are 5 to 6 salespeople handling independent territories or products. Who is there to take the responsibility of overall sales target? Who will manage, motivate, and coach the sales team? Who will resolve team issues and internal differences?
In the above situations, the mantle of leadership usually falls on the company owner or CEO. Apart from running the overall business, he or she is burdened with an additional task of running a vertical or function. This cannot continue for long.
What needs to be done?
It is recommended that a new vertical or function should be created with the appointment of a leader. Empower that leader to set up the business vertical or function, to build the team, to set up systems, develop customers and grow the business. It should be a top-down approach.
Take your time to evaluate and appoint the right person, having right attitude, skills, and knowledge.
What if an existing leader quits?
It might happen that your existing leader quits for reasons beyond your control. If you have been diligently working with the person, you would have got warning signals long before the actual resignation. Take steps as soon as you sense something is wrong. Talk to the person and see if you could help. If nothing works and the person resigns, ensure that there is sufficient time between the resignation date and relieving date. You could build it into the initial employment contract. Start looking out aggressively for a new leader and try to get that person on-board to ensure an overlap for a smooth handover. This creates a sense of continuity for customers and employees.
If you have an internal candidate with the right ingredients for success, you may consider him or her.
It also helps to be in touch with potential candidates who are currently not looking for a change. They may be a good fit for a leadership position in your organization, whenever the need arises. It saves precious time.
Resist the temptation
You may be tempted to keep the leadership position vacant as things may be seemingly working out even in the absence of a leader. You may also justify your action due to cost considerations. Do not do that. The investment that your company makes in having a good leader will always pay itself many times over.
Also, as a CEO, you will then have time on your hands to set the vision and think on strategic issues that address overall company growth. Remember, this is something only you can do and for this you need time and peace of mind.
Finally, determine not to run a business vertical or function without a leader.
As an entrepreneur or CEO, you need to create leaders, who in turn will create more leaders that will help the organization catapult to a different level. It is an opportunity to develop people, serve the society and get benefit too.
Lead from the front!