Becoming a PEAK Leader. (Part 2)

April 23, 2020

Becoming a PEAK Leader. (Part 2)

May 29, 2023

During the past two days, I’ve introduced my PEAK organizational model as well as outlined the first four practices that can help you to “be all you can be” as a leader. I sum-up this series with the final four leadership practices.

For those who want to learn more, you can read my book “PEAK: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow.” We’ll now focus on practices 5-8.

Practice 5: Nurture, value, and evolve corporate culture as your ultimate differentiator.

Great leaders know that company culture is their secret weapon, that it needs to be nurtured and valued, and must evolve with the times. It takes years to create a compelling culture, yet you can lose it with just a few bad decisions. The most valuable lesson in this practice is to become more conscious about what constitutes your current culture and what steps you can take to move that in the direction most appropriate for your long-term corporate goals. As Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia says, “The more you have a vibrant culture that everyone buys into, the less process you need in the org.”

Practice 6: Calibrate the balance between “Conscious” and “Capitalism.”

Business has quite often been seen as a “zero-sum” game. One person’s win is another person’s loss. Taken to a global level, some believe that capitalism’s short-term gains are often to the long-term detriment of the environment and to certain communities. Yet, there’s been a paradigm shift in the past decade. PEAK-performing companies have to become conscious capitalists as the world has become much more transparent and companies have become more accountable. That may sound like the kind of concern only a CEO has to consider but, in reality, on a daily basis, mid-level leaders are faced with questions about how a financially-motivated decision might affect the culture of their department, the motivation of those that work with them, or the company’s reputation in the community. During this pandemic, we’ve looked at how our Modern Elder Academy can be a stabilizing force in our local farming and fishing village whether it be paying our workers 75% of their normal wages while not working or donating to the local food bank.

Practice 7: Disrupt the customer pyramid with consistent innovations at the peak.

The sixth practice helps a PEAK leader look beyond the borders of their company, and this seventh practice furthers that expansive thinking. Transformational companies and leaders can often be contrarian by focusing on the higher needs of their obvious primary customers, but also with customers that their competitors hadn’t ever considered. Determine how you can become the world’s best mind-reader with respect to the unrecognized needs of your core customers. At Joie de Vivre, we used our process of defining a magazine and five adjectives to help us determine the “identity refreshment” we could offer to our bull’s eye psychographic customer. Intuit uses its “follow-me-home” ethnography approach to understanding the latent needs of its customers. Amazon is creating using their new retail stores as insight centers. Create a persona with a name for your primary core customers and regularly refresh your definition of who they are and what new products in the marketplace are delighting them.

Practice 8: Lead to Peak (in other words, you’re always a role model and a “Sherpa”)

Just as a Sherpa does in the Himalayas, great leaders meet their people where they are on the pyramid and help them to see the natural path up to the peak. PEAK leaders embody loyalty and build an “emotional bank account” with their employees by championing personal development in tandem with corporate development. They understand the synergistic effect of having a self-actualized individual in the workplace. And PEAK leaders unconsciously calculate the lifetime value of their customer, employee, and investor relationships, knowing that investing in relationships builds trust, which is the ultimate lubricant for a well-run business. Kip Tindell, co-founder, Chairman, and past CEO of The Container Store, uses the metaphor of a wake, the trail of water left by a boat, to define this practice. He says, “Your wake, my wake, everybody’s wake is far more vast and powerful than you think it is. It makes you realize how big and influential we are, and how much impact we have on the companies around us and the world around us.” A leader is a role model. It’s that simple.

Conscious people pay attention. It’s true of spiritual leaders. And it’s true of business leaders. PEAK leaders pay attention to the higher needs while not neglecting the base needs that provide a foundation for their organization. Leadership is all about making conscious choices, and knowing that the higher you are in the company, the more magnified your decisions and behavior will be throughout the organization.

The eight practices that define PEAK leaders can be summarized in one simple paragraph:

Peak leaders believe humans are basically good (Practice 1). And, work is a powerful means for one to live their calling (Practice 2). Yet, what’s most valuable in life and business is often elusive (Practice 3). Great leaders know that these elusive intangibles are found higher up on the Hierarchy of Needs pyramid and they try to lead from that transformational place (Practice 4). A healthy company culture can be transformative in helping a leader and an organization pay attention to higher needs (Practice 5). But, in the interdependent and transparent world we live in, PEAK leaders recognize that they have to be conscious of higher needs beyond their organization (Practice 6). Delivering on the unrecognized needs of your customers – or your community – requires a relentless commitment to innovation (Practice 7). Peak leaders develop loyalty with all their stakeholders by operating as if they’re a role model all of the time (Practice 8). And, being a humanistic role model takes a leader back to Practice 1.

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