High-growth companies need steady-handed managers, largely internally focused, who bring stability to an enterprise growing at lightning speed. These individuals exhibit control, discipline, and predictability. But such companies also need outward-facing leaders who are highly exploratory—particularly with business relationships and marketing opportunities. Thus growth needs not one leader but a pair of leaders.
Among America's highest-growth companies, leadership is based on dynamic duos—two individuals who complement one another to build the business from big to a billion dollars in revenue and beyond. Dynamic duos are the stuff of corporate legend: Sears and Roebuck, Roy and Walt Disney, Hewlett and Packard. At Apple (AAPL), Steve Jobs is Mr. Outside and Tim Cook is Mr. Inside. Microsoft (MSFT), Cisco (CSC), Apple, Juniper Networks (JNPR), Nike (NKE), Starbucks (SBUX), HCL Technologies (HCLT), and many others have applied the same Inside-Outside Leadership pattern.
One leader (or team) faces outward toward markets, customers, alliances, and the community, with the other leader (or team) focused inward to optimize operations. The inside-facing executive is typically the chief operating officer (COO); the external-facing executive is typically the chief executive (CEO). Together they make swift decisions—and quickly correct their mistakes.
Such relationships are dynamic in their use of complementary strengths. Exceptional growth company leaders have a conscious understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses and seek a partner who complements their style. As a pair, they are the highest of high-performance teams, and the two must have complete trust in and respect for each other. Even with limited resources, such teams execute "1 + 1 = 3" miracles.
The application of Inside-Outside Leadership isn't confined to American growth companies. India's HCL Technologies, one of the top global outsourcing companies and one of the top 20 most influential companies as ranked by Bloomberg BusinessWeek, applies the concept throughout the entire organization.
CEO Vineet Nayar is Mr. Outside. Mr. Anant Gupta is Mr. Inside. "Our entire structure is based on dynamic-duo pairs," says Nayar. "For example, Anant and I are really different, but this is beneficial. He comes from an R&D background. He can visualize technology trends a million times better than I can. To complement him, I am focused on external essentials, such as alliance and customer relationships."
Knowing Each Other's Jobs
In the Infrastructure Services Division, R. Srikrishna, senior vice-president for sales, plays Mr. Outside, while C. Vijay Kumar, senior vice-president for delivery and operations, is Mr. Inside. The secret to Sri's and Vijay's success is not only that they do their own jobs extremely well, but that they have also spent time in each other's jobs—enough to trust the other to know what he is doing. In terms of organizational structure, HCL is even organized so that Inside-Outside pairs report to other "dynamic duo" pairs. To ensure success, the company makes a point of finding complementary pairings.
What makes this organization work so particularly well? A culture of mutual respect across leadership, recognition of what each person contributes, and the fact that many of them have worked together for a long time.
A culture of transparency down and across the organization builds a culture of interaction that drives effective teamwork.
Can Inside-Outside make a growth difference? HCL Technologies recently achieved a revenue growth rate that outperforms other leading outsourcing companies, and HCL was recently ranked in a recent Hewitt Associates study as India's best employer for creating a positive work experience for employees. Hewitt also ranked HCL as one of the top 30 employers in Asia to work for.
Inside-Outside Leadership is an essential secret to creating a great place to work that will propel your growth prospects.
Insights to Actions
Here are three questions to reflect on or engage with your team or potential other half:
• Whether you are running a company or in middle management, are you paired with a counterpart who complements your talents? If you don't think so, have you considered clarifying your roles with a trusted partner? Alternatively, are you competing with peers for survival or the next promotion? Can you have a team meeting to discuss values and culture?
• If you are a "Jack of All Trades" working operational and customer-facing initiatives: Can you achieve higher performance by focusing much more on either inside or outside initiatives—and then partnering with a trusted counterpart to do the other half of the equation?
• How well are your company's structure, management objectives, and incentives leveraging inside-outside management pairs? For example, do you think sharing the same objectives and incentives across inside and outside pairs is a productive approach?
Here are three actions you can take to leverage Inside-Outside Leadership to make your leadership journey so much more effective and enjoyable:
1. Apply Inside-Outside Leadership to Your Company
Here are some signs that indicate you may need an Inside-Outside Leadership pair. Ask yourself, do you feel guilty you are not visiting customers enough or need to be in the office to handle operations? When you ask others to identify the Inside and Outside Pair of your company, do they struggle to reply? Do you lack a trusted partner who complements you? If the answer is "yes" to any of these questions, follow in the footsteps of Apple or HCL Technologies to find your other half.
2. Build a High-Performance Culture Based on Trust
Inside-Outside pairs build a culture of open communications because they trust one another. If you are lacking your other half, build a complementary relationship with a peer or, if you have the option, recruit a peer to serve as your inside or outside complement.
3. Utilize Inside-Outside Leadership Throughout Your Company
Applying Inside-Outside Leadership principles is not just for the top two pair. It applies across a company and is a basis for organization design, metric alignment, and development. For example, HCL Technologies account executives (outside-facing) are paired up with a counterpart for delivery of outsourcing services (inside-facing). They share common metrics and objectives. There are more than 300 pairs throughout HCL globally.