Get your leadership moving right to left

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

For Randall Hogan, leadership means moving from right to left. Hogan is chairman and chief executive of Pentair, which has 30,000 employees. Pentair makes water filters, pump systems and other industrial equipment.

Hogan says “thinking right to left” is a key to succeeding as CEO. He defines it as identifying where you are now as a starting point and then articulating a clear goal to reach a different point.

Moving from the status quo toward an ambitious goal—advancing right to left—requires clear communication and purposeful action. Everyone in the organization needs to understand what’s at stake and buy into the need to make progress.

Plotting a direction doesn’t mean dictating how the company will get there. Hogan sees his role as getting everyone aligned and excited about reaching a certain destination, even though he says there are often “an infinite number of ways” to travel there.

About five years ago, for example, Hogan imagined Pentair growing into a $10 billion company. That meant staying attuned to acquisition opportunities as they arose.

Such an opportunity surfaced in 2009 when Pentair analyzed Tyco Inter­­na­­tional’s flow-control business as a way to grow rapidly. In 2012, the acquisition was completed. The deal roughly doubled Pent­­air’s size to $8 billion.

“You create the future you imagine,” Hogan says.

In his nearly 13 years as Pentair’s CEO, Hogan has learned the importance of building a tight-knit relationship with the board of directors. When he has considered big transactions, he has informed the board early on. His goal is to ensure the board fully understands his strategy to reach his goal.  

— Adapted from “Rethinking where to compete,” Rik Kirkland, McKinsey Quarterly.

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