Vail Valley Voices: Execution is key to leadership |

Vail Valley Voices: Execution is key to leadership

John Horan-Kates
Vail, CO, Colorado

At the Vail Leadership Institute, we define executing as the systematic process of producing the desired results, of having a bias for action tied to accountability. If purpose is your “why” and vision is your “what,” then executing is your “how.”

Execution makes all the difference because it closes the gap between promises and results. It’s all about getting the right things done for the right reasons. That’s what leadership is largely about.

In their book “Execution,” Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan say, “Leadership without the discipline of execution is incomplete and ineffective. Without the ability to execute, all other attributes of leadership become hollow.”

As you look at the principle of executing, you might want to reflect on the importance of patient planning, initiating, following up and completing projects.

However you want to refer to it – execution, discipline, implementation, action – it’s the relatively straight-forward stuff. It’s the blocking and tackling of leadership.

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While it may sound simple, it’s definitely not always easy. We can often be held back, as Henry Kissinger reminded us, with: “What might happen is often used as an excuse for not doing what can happen.”

Completing projects ties back to commitment. How do you move from intention to commitment? And how committed are you to the things you say you’ll do?

Some leaders are very capable of getting things started – launching a new project or kicking off a new service. They are excellent at taking the first step and initiating new work.

But often they don’t complete the project. They get about two-thirds down the road and then something else grabs their attention. Maybe it’s the next idea or even the next crisis.

What if you could complete things completely? What would that say about who you are?

When making important decisions, most effective leaders will carefully analyze all the available information. They’ll apply reasonable logic and try to mesh their strategy with reality.

The really successful leaders will seek wise counsel from others. It could be their board, trusted colleagues, close friends or family. Many will pray and then simply listen.

But in all of these approaches, serious reflection plays a role. After reflection, they decide quickly, according to their values, and then move out smartly, communicating the decision widely.

One of the best descriptors of executing was offered by Bob Vanourek when he said, “It’s about focusing on who’s doing what by when.”

So, what approach or process do you use to execute on your commitments?

John Horan-Kates is the president of the Vail Leadership Institute in Edwards. He can be reached at 970-926-7800 or

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