Good leadership requires a long-term approach

Kate Cooper
Head of Research, Policy and Standards
Institute of Leadership and Management
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I believe that good leadership means focusing on long-term success. And if the growth in the French economy is anything to go by, it’s an approach their President certainly endorses.

Forbes recently did a round of cheerleading for French President Emmanuel Macron, following an announcement from his government that in 2017, France enjoyed its fastest growth spurt for a decade.

According to the Forbes article, the French economy grew by 1.9% last year, compared to just 1.1% in 2016 – surpassing the government’s projected growth figure of 1.7%.

Businessman David Schrieberg, who wrote the piece, credits Macron with creating a fertile climate for foreign investment, noting: “France is hopping with entrepreneurship, not in small part due to the Macron government’s emphasis on making life at least easy enough to get off the ground.”

It is – as Schrieberg points out – a world away from the polls slump that hit Macron early on in his tenure, which led many to write off the wave of promise, freshness and optimism on which he rode into office. All he required, the article implies, was some time to settle in and make his presence felt before getting to work to achieve his long-term goals. 

Achieving leadership

At the Institute of Leadership & Management we focus on Achievement as one of our five dimensions of leadership – along with Authenticity, Collaboration, Ownership and Vision.  

Achieving leadership focuses on delivering outcomes. Short-term wins are good but they are exactly that: wins for the short term. Not only can they distract leaders from focusing upon long-term goals, they may even deliver damaging, unintended consequences – particular if such wins are conceived with no attention to the longer term. Good leadership, on the other hand, focuses on delivering long-term beneficial outcomes. 

Organisations exist to transform inputs (such as a skilled workforce, materials, information, capital equipment, land, buildings) into outputs – such as goods and services. In my opinion, to focus on the best possible outcome – the final end result for users – your organisation must maximise the quality of its transformation process. Delivery of outcomes drives your organisation’s growth, profitability and sustainable impact. This is a long-term game that involves careful strategic planning. 

Keeping everyone happy​

Balancing the needs of various stakeholders adds complexity to this balancing of the short and long term. Trying to please some stakeholders in the short term might be to the long-term detriment of others in your value chain. Business philosopher Charles Hampden-Turner uses PPI as an example of that logic in action: organisations embroiled in the misselling scandal were essentially taking money from their customers to give to their shareholders.

A focus on developing metrics that have long-term goals and aspirations in mind means all stakeholder relationships will be taken account of and lead to far more enduring relationships that provide value for all.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos advocates this view, stating: “My own view is that every company requires a long-term view.” 

I think it’s that kind of “long-term” approach that helps define good leadership. 

For more information about our research, visit our Institute of Leadership & Management website and join us on Twitter @InstituteLM​


About Kate Cooper

About Kate Cooper

Prior to joining The Institute of Leadership & Management Kate Cooper worked in the university sector. She has appeared on, amongst others, BBC Television, BBC Radio 4 and has a regular column in Dialogue magazine. She is a key note speaker at conferences and provides expert commentary on a range of topics arising from the Institute’s research agenda. 


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