The BLG Blog

Posts & articles that have helped thousands build performance through pragmatic leadership.

Leading for Momentum

Author: S. B. Bacharach

While there has been much written on leadership in the last twenty years, what is coming into focus is the capacity to get things done in organizations.  In the final analysis successful leadership training programs must address the issue of how to teach people the skills of taking action.

Once you have the vision and direction, you must take action. You must take charge and actively execute. You must become proactive. If the difference between visionaries and proactive leaders is the capacity to get things done-what turns a visionary into a proactive leader? What are the components of proactive leadership? First, proactive leaders have to have the political competence to mobilize people around their idea and get them on their side. Second, they have to have the managerial competence to sustain momentum, keep people on their side, and implement.

Politically competent leaders are those who can rally people to their side.  Politically competent leaders have developed the skill of mobilization.  They’ve developed the capacity to identify allies and resistors, create coalitions, and create support for their agenda.  Politically competent leaders are great campaigners.  They know how to get people on their side.  But mobilizing people-getting them to buy into your ideas is not enough.  You have to go the distance.  How often have you heard of leaders who talked a good game but failed to deliver?

Long-term leadership success is about keeping them on your side and going the distance. You have them in your corner; the challenge is how to sustain momentum. How do you keep things moving? How do you prevent people from getting stalled? How to do you avoid getting pulled off target? How do you dodge the bottleneck? How do you guard against inertia? How do you keep away from the choke? How do you steer clear of procrastination? How do you conserve their energy to go the distance? These are the challenges of sustaining momentum. These are the challenges of managerial competence. Managerial competence is your ability to sustain momentum and make sure that your agenda is put in place while keeping people on your side.

Often momentum is regarded as a monolithic and mystical “big mo.” But is it as mystical as all that? Is momentum all that monolithic? All that mystical? Or is the fact, that away from the limelight, in practice and in the locker room, Joe Torre is capable of leading and managing for momentum? Managerially competent leaders understand that in order to control the big mo, they need to manage the four dimensions of momentum so their initiative stays on track, stays on people’s radar, and remains something that the organization continues to support.

The first dimension of momentum is structural momentum. Leaders who emphasize structural momentum are likely to say that to keep things moving the primary concern is who does what and making sure people have resources to do the job. Embedded here is a logistical notion of momentum. If you want to sustain momentum-worry about resources and responsibility. The second dimension of momentum is performance momentum, where leaders place emphasis on achievement and evaluation. If you want to sustain things in an organization and keep things moving, you need to make sure that evaluations are conducted, progress is measured, and feedback is given. The third dimension of momentum is cultural momentum. Leaders who sustain momentum place an emphasis on the group culture, where the cohesiveness of the culture and social psychological mechanisms, like peer pressure, will sustain projects to completion. The fourth dimension of momentum is political momentum, where leaders make sure that conflict is dealt with and that opposition is either challenged or incorporated.

When you view momentum in this way, you can develop a sense that there is something you can do to sustain it. That it isn’t simply this high concept that football games are made of. How you manage for momentum will depend on how you allocate resources, how you make corrections, how you maintain commitment, and how you deal with criticism. Proactive leaders do not view momentum as an unquantified state over which they have no control. Proactive leaders see momentum as a multi-dimensional commodity that can and must be managed in order to ensure the success of their initiative.

Each dimension of momentum is important in its own way to the success of your project. Each is different, but each is critical. Sometimes you have to place your attention on one and not the other. Sometimes you need to balance them all. Sometimes you simply decide to float. No matter what the demands of your particular situation are, the key to sustaining momentum is constant focusing and adjusting. Managerially competent leaders who are able to see their project to completion are constantly aware of what they have to do in order to move their project ahead. Is it a question of resources and responsibility (structural momentum)? Is it a question of not evaluating performance accurately or often enough (performance momentum)? Are the beliefs of the group a problem (cultural momentum)? Or maybe it’s a problem of old-fashioned sabotage (political momentum)?

By focusing on sustaining momentum in each dimension, you significantly improve the likelihood that your initiative will continue to have wide support and remain vital.



About BLG

Whether you want BLG to deliver a complete leadership academy across your organization, focus on a key group, or supplement an ongoing program, the primary goal of any of our programs will be business impact.

Recent Posts


Sign up for our Newsletter