Elephants Unchained: Redefining Leadership Performance

Elephants Unchained: Redefining Leadership Performance

What makes a leader? And more to the point, what does elephant training have to do with "redefining leadership performance"?

Is there a universal formula for leadership? A repeatable recipe based on a list of essential attributes and competencies? Or is it something slightly more transcendent? And what, for that matter, is leadership— true leadership— anyway?

Though these questions might initially seem a bit nebulous, addressing them thoughtfully can ignite a chain reaction of transformation within an organization.

Leveraging its profoundly unique and progressive approach, Cincinnati-based Xecutive Metrix (XM) engages with their clients in the work of transforming leadership, from the ordinary to the masterful. The "typical" client approaches XM as a means to create sustainable, long-term improvements in its performance metrics. 

Established in 2010, this boutique firm weaves various skill sets and backgrounds (ranging from consulting, marketing and product development to clinical and industrial organizational psychology), into a distinct, cohesive philosophy. The XM model is simultaneously rooted in both business and psychology, funneling insights on the essence of leadership through a practical, performance-centered approach. The result is a straightforward, hands-on method of addressing clients’ most intimately held professional goals and developing actionable steps to realize that vision.

Especially attuned to the needs of senior executives, Xecutive Metrix specializes in catalyzing the development of these professionals and their teams. Members of the XM team travel the globe applying their leadership development model to the operations of organizations large and small. Their client list includes firms in the healthcare, medical technology, manufacturing, food distribution, gaming, professional service, real estate, and airline industries.

The founder and managing partner of Xecutive Metrix, Dr. Roza Rojdev, PsyD, recently sat down with LEAD Cincinnati to discuss the firm’s work, leadership in general and the strange relevance of elephants.

LEAD Cincinnati: Can you give us an overview of the Xecutive Metrix approach?

Dr. Rojdev: We evaluate each client and his situation, and then design a customized solution. There are three elements that drive that solution: the beliefs and understandings of the leader, his ability to execute, and the will to do so.

This is the basis of our Masterful Leadership model. The philosophy behind this model is easy to explain. It all comes down to three basic elements: Be, Have, Do.

Our approach is equally straightforward. It encompasses the leader’s unique characteristics, the tools that he or she must have, and the actions that the leader must take to align all pieces of their operation and make their goals a reality.  

LC: Can you distill your work into one core competency?  If so, what is it?​

Rojdev: It all starts with this concept: There is only one resource that exists where the more of it you use, the more of it you have. Only one. And that is the human mind. 

We speak about one resource, "Human Capital." This is the most important resource — the only resource. Ultimately, profitability is about performance. And performance is about people, both individually and collectively.

Our core competency is to unearth and develop human potential, and transform individuals into visionary, masterful leaders.

LC: Are there any common, defining features that your clients share?

Rojdev: The work of a leader is unique. And if someone truly wants to be masterful at it, it’s a serious, lifelong pursuit. It’s a discovery process. We work with visionary, transformational leaders who are willing to change things, topple them on their heads, and upset the status quo. These are leaders who are focused on developing and creating things that no one has even conceptualized yet.

When we, as individuals, choose a job or career, we are also choosing how we will affect the lives of others. All of the different avenues of work can be consolidated into three categories:

First:  Work that is focused on fixing what’s broken. Careers in this category are centered on the things that we use. Things break and this group of people fixes them, so that those who are affected by what’s broken can get on with their lives.

Second: Work that’s focused on maintaining what already works. People with careers in this category make sure that things are working effectively so that the people who depend on those things aren’t negatively affected.

Third: Work that’s focused on developing the "New." This refers to new ideas, techniques, mechanisms, etc. Things that can benefit their creators and all users. This work concentrates on what can be discovered or designed that is absolutely not yet in existence.

The category of work that resonates with me personally and drives us as a firm is the last category. I classify the individuals engaged in this type of work as the "Creators."

Our firm specializes in working with people who have the potential to be Creators of the New. We believe that the greatest benefits to people come from things that are created, things that currently don’t exist. These unrealized creations have the potential to transcend the borders of culture, gender, ethnicity, etc., and have a real impact on humanity.

LC: Can you give us an example of these "three categories" of work?

Rojdev: Sure. Let’s say your goal is to provide transportation for all. Transportation that is safe, enjoyable, and affordable.

Are your skills best used to fix the broken trains? Are they best used to keep the working trains on schedule? Or are your personal efforts best used to develop completely new concepts of transportation?

Those who are Creators ask, "What if we go after a completely new transportation system? One that, say, goes from New York to L.A. in an hour. Not a three-hour flight. Not a 20-hour train. But one hour! ... And what could that type of transportation be?"

(It is interesting to note that a Creator has just announced his plan to develop a Hyperloop train that could make such a trip in 45 minutes!)

LC: What differentiates your approach from that of other consulting firms?

Rojdev: Our core competency is the ability to see the locked doors within each executive’s mind and then to throw them wide open and pour their knowledge, ideas, and creativity out on the table. We then engage that leader in creating new ways of looking at their business and building strategies that they (or their competition) have never considered.

When we see that a client is starting to settle down with the ordinary, we push it. Why? Because if that leader stops growing, the business stops growing. If that leader stops being transformational, the business starts stagnating. The leader is the standard setter. When they stop pushing the limits with themselves, everyone else follows. And then the business follows.

We don’t focus on bringing subject matter expertise to our clients. To be a subject matter expert as a consultant means that you are playing in the realm of the known — what has been written and, typically, already published.  If it is known, the smart competition within the client’s industry is likely already at work putting those ideas into practice.

Our process of developing masterful leaders is not about giving our clients a fish, so to speak. It’s about developing them into masterful fishermen who can not only fish, but engineer the lakes and rivers as well, and continue to feed both themselves and all others who love eating fish.

LC: That's very intriguing. Any other analogies that illustrate the XM approach?

Rojdev: Have you ever seen an elephant at a circus when he is not performing? Typically, you’ll find him tethered with a rope around one leg and the rope secured to a stake in the ground.

The elephant could easily break the rope or pull the stake out of the ground. (These are the same powerful, majestic animals that you’ve seen on wildlife shows tearing out entire trees with their trunks!)

The secret behind this is in how the elephant was trained. It starts when they were very small; they’re tethered to a stake when they really can’t pull it free or break the chain. Over time, the elephant "learns" that he cannot break the stake. This belief stays with him even after he has become a full-size adult and is one of the strongest animals on earth. Their belief is the shackle.

Those are the same type of bonds that bind leaders and businesses to mediocrity. 

Leaders who are successful and mature are, at the same time, often shackled by what has worked in the past. And ultimately, there is no way that a venture is going to be successful if its leaders continue to only do what they have done in the past. There is no question in our minds about that.

So, it’s the chains that we impose upon ourselves — or maybe the chains that others have imposed on us (or the organization) — that need to be broken.

And those are the type of chains that we are engaged in breaking.

Xecutive Metrix is located at 455 Delta Avenue, Suite 207, Cincinnati, OH 45226. You can reach them at 513.402.2282 or visit their website at www.xecutivemetrix.com.

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