Authors and strategy experts Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne developed the idea of blue ocean leadership. In the same way that Kim and Mauborgne’s blue ocean strategy enables companies to create uncontested market space, blue ocean leadership allows companies to benefit from unrealized employee talent and potential.
- Understanding blue ocean leadership
- The four pillars of blue ocean leadership
- Key takeaways:
- Connected Leadership Concepts And Frameworks
Understanding blue ocean leadership
Blue ocean leadership is a systematic framework that unlocks unrealized talent and potential within an organization.
While many leadership frameworks use pillars of cognitive science to facilitate high performance, desirable traits such as empathy and self-awareness require deep introspection and can take years to manifest in some leaders.
Kim and Mauborgne instead advocated an action-centric framework where leaders can make the most impact with the lowest investment of time and money.
In the context of blue ocean leadership, impact relates to employee satisfaction and organizational performance.
To that end, leaders are encouraged to think of their leadership as a service with subordinates serving as customers.
Like any product or service, the customer must first decide whether the offer is attractive.
When subordinates “purchase” leadership from their superior, it implies that they appreciate their management style and buy into their vision. When subordinates do not make a purchase, however, there is dissatisfaction with the leader.
These employees may disrupt the workplace, make poor-quality products, or leave the company altogether.
The four pillars of blue ocean leadership
Four pillars clarify how blue ocean leadership can be instituted in organizations.
Pillar 1 – Focus on acts and activities
As we noted in the previous section, blue ocean leadership is action-centric.
Acts and activities are used to develop a leadership profile based on easily observed, measured actions and directly impacting performance.
Leaders are not required to act in a way that inspires others. Instead, they provide real-time feedback and instruction to motivate subordinates and increase their performance internally.
Pillar 2 – Connect leadership to market realities by engaging people who confront them
Instead, those who face market realities must determine which leadership practices hold them back and which would allow them best to serve the company’s customers and key stakeholders.
Pillar 3 – Distribute leadership across different management levels
To be effective, blue ocean leadership requires empowered employees to be distributed across the senior, middle, and frontline levels.
Kim and Mauborgne argued that this was the best way to discover unrealized talent hidden in the organization’s deepest recesses.
Furthermore, each management level requires a tailored leadership profile characterized by a different task environment and degree of positional power.
Pillar 4 – Pursue high-impact, low-cost leadership acts and activities
With many companies trimming their operating budgets to the bare minimum, managers barely have enough time to carry out their regular activities, let alone find the time to enhance their leadership skills.
With time at a premium, the step-change approach to leadership is rarely effective.
Blue ocean leadership understands this dilemma and encourages leaders to avoid making a trade-off between impact and cost.
To focus their resources on activities that motivate employees and drive business results, the framework poses the following questions:
- Eliminate – which acts and activities should be eliminated?
- Reduce – which acts and activities should be reduced below their current level?
- Raise – which acts and activities should be raised above their current level?
- Create – which acts and activities should leaders invest their time and intelligence in that they currently do not undertake?
- Blue ocean leadership is a systematic framework that unlocks unrealized talent and potential within an organization. It was developed by authors and strategists Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne.
- In the context of blue ocean leadership, impact relates to employee satisfaction and organizational performance. Leaders must think of their leadership as a service they provide to subordinates, with poor quality “service” having the potential to result in low employee and organizational performance.
- The four pillars of blue ocean leadership provide clarity on how it may be instituted. Initially, the focus is on high-impact activities that are easily measured and can be used to internally motivate employees. These activities should be defined by those who face market realities and also involve all levels of management.
Connected Leadership Concepts And Frameworks