As my HR mentor used to say, "It begins and ends with leadership". After a 25 year plus career with leadership positions in organizations, trade associations, non-profits and more, it is clear that leadership will make or break success.
It is interesting the difference leadership can make. We can go to 2 similar clients with similar products, services, systems and resources with the only difference being the leader, and we'll see two vastly different environments. In one case, we will be wildly successful and, in the other, we'll struggle. Even in the best of cases (when they are more closely aligned), one project will have quicker results than the other.
No matter how effective or ineffective the leader, short term results are likely to occur. With focus, things improve. Also, even if the leader has a dictatorial style, he/she can gain short-term results as people do not want to lose their jobs; however, sustainable results will not follow.
For example, we've worked with quite a few large complex, global aerospace companies. As is typical with any large, complex organization, the leader of an individual facility will be under pressure to perform. We have seen more than our fair share of General Managers, COO's or Presidents come and go over the years. From time to time, it will be night and day with the change in leadership. One day things seem disorganized and folks are frustrated and struggling on legitimate concerns, and the next, we have direction and clarity. Of course, people do not become less frustrated over night but with clarity and direction, 80% of the people will calm down and performance will improve within a reasonable time frame. The 20% might not be interested in being accountable or they could have crossed the line in terms of frustration levels and need to make a change.
Since leadership will make or break success, make it a top priority!