CEOs often think that they need to clearly be 'in charge and in control'.

Traditional business training reinforces this.

You use your seniority to decide what to do, delegate tasks down the chain, measure that people have done them, and hand out rewards and punishments accordingly.

Military style. Command and control.

The only thing is, even the military have found out this isn't the way to achieve any mission in a complex world.

General Stanley McChrystal was sent to try to turn around the failing US mission against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. The huge might of the world's biggest, best-equipped army was being bested by a scrappy network of poorly-equipped terrorist cells.

In his book, Team of Teams, McChrystal describes how he stripped out all the traditions of command and control — removing any expectation that the top of the command chain knew what needed doing better than those close to the action.

That takes huge confidence from a leader.

Instead, he broke the behemoth down into small independent teams, gave them the power to decide what to do and how — and made his role about showing them what to focus on.

Each team thoroughly understood the overall mission, the role they played in that, the principles they could use to make decisions in the field, and a constant stream of information they would need for those decisions.

In our industry the need for this approach is even clearer.

The definition of 'agency' in social science is "the capacity of individuals to have the power and resources to fulfil their potential."

So your role as the leader of the agency is to maximise this capacity.

Give people the power and the resources.

And then make your role about providing the focus.

This Focus is the F in the FLAME agency leadership framework, which provides a guide for what you can do when you get time to work at a higher altitude in your business.

It's a vital part of your leadership work to set this focus.

Too many agencies remove the command and control approach, without putting in place the guiding light of a clear focus.

This results in the founder needing to run around the business constantly making decisions, fighting fires and micromanaging.

That's exhausting and demoralising for everyone.

Instead, giving everyone in the agency a clear focus for their work is liberating and energising. You free up their talent while keeping everyone heading towards the desired outcomes.

So, this week, in your founder time, work out how you can give greater focus for your agency's energy, with these starting points:

  • Spotlight the guiding purpose of the agency, so everyone understands the why behind the focus
  • Clarify and amplify your strategy, equipping everyone with the 'what we'll do' and 'what we won't do' as you work to fulfil your purpose
  • Show each team, and each person their role in that strategy
  • Provide guiding principles for their decision making
  • Celebrate openly and loudly when a team or person does things brilliantly, focusing attention on the kind of work you want
  • Build a clear connection between people's work and the outcomes for the agency, the clients and the wider world. Show people their impact.

All of the above is required from you constantly. It's not a one-time announcement, it needs nurturing daily.

Focus is the first priority of an agency leader. Make time to lead on it this week.