Becoming a PEAK Leader. (Part 1)

April 22, 2020

Becoming a PEAK Leader. (Part 1)

May 29, 2023

Happy 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Over the next two days, I will make my PEAK organizational theory real and prescriptive by introducing eight practices that can help you become a peak-performing leader, which will hopefully help you better navigate these challenging times.

PEAK leaders are needed more than ever.

Doctors and attorneys practice medicine and law. So why don’t business leaders practice business? There’s practice involved in sports, the arts, and even religion, but we don’t think of our profession as a “practice.” We just do it. And, quite often, we do it rather unconsciously.

Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does make public your commitment to the PEAK principles I introduced in yesterday’s blog. After more than a dozen years of seeing companies from Zappos to Whole Foods Markets utilize PEAK, I’ve come to realize that business principles are only as good as the practices that back them up. And those practices are exhibited by leaders.

When a company embeds these principles and practices into how they grow their leaders, the end result is PEAK performance: a phenomenon of sustained growth—both for the organization and for those within it. What is unique about these eight practices is they build upon each other, and the skills and habits that back them up, help the PEAK principles come to life. While each practice can stand alone when combining them, a PEAK leader unlocks the human potential that’s stored in every organization or team so that PEAK performance is more likely.

Practice 1: Embody an inherently positive view of human nature.

The principles of PEAK have their roots in humanistic psychology and a basic belief that man is meant to “be all that he can be.” So, it’s not surprising that the fundamental first practice is assuring that a PEAK leader believes that humans—at their very core—gravitate to goodness when the right conditions exist for them to flourish.

Practice 2: Create the conditions for people to live their calling.

Abe Maslow wrote, “One can set up the conditions so that peak experiences are more likely, or, one can perversely set up the conditions so that they are less likely.” Great leaders understand there are only three relationships you can have with your work: a job, career, or calling. Great companies create the conditions for employees to live their calling. The PEAK leader also asks questions like this one, “As I make any significant operational or strategic decision for the company, who on my team will be most affected by this decision, what is the potential collateral damage that could arise out of this decision, and how can I mitigate it if I am going to pursue this path?” This question has been particularly important in influencing our decisions during this pandemic.

Practice 3: Promote and measure the value of intangibles.

In business, we’re taught that leadership is all about managing what you can measure, but what’s most valuable in life and business is often intangible, which is harder to measure. The metrics that track the business tangibles are well known: your profitability, your cost structure, and your market share. Yet, these tangible metrics are the result of a series of intangibles that drive excellence: brand loyalty and reputation, employee engagement, customer evangelism and word of mouth, ability to innovate and create intellectual capital, or company culture. I learned a lot about this by studying Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness index and then talking about it on the TED stage.

Practice 4: Ability to move fluidly between being a “transactional” and a “transformational” leader.

Transactional leaders lead from the bottom of the pyramid, while transformational leaders lead from the top. Most management decisions require only transactional thinking because the goal is purely to optimize existing resources. But, in an era of constant change, transformational leaders visualize potential and actualize it into reality and know when they need to shift from the bottom of the pyramid to the top in terms of their focus. If you tend to operate in a visionary way, make sure to always do a spot-check around buy-in. Especially with those who are most operationally involved with executing this vision. Can they link their reality to what the company is trying to do transformationally? Be sure to ask what they need to help them succeed.

I will add the second four practices in tomorrow’s blog.

P.S. Please join me and David Stewart, the co-founder of AGEIST online magazine, as we unlock wisdom with special guest Alex von Bidder. Alex is a long-time yoga and meditation practitioner, mentor at the ManKind Project, and former managing partner (for decades) of the venerable Four Seasons restaurant in NYC. Tune in today at 5:00pm PST. Tickets are free and limited, so reserve here.

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