Blue Ocean Leadership


Harvard Business Review, May 2014

By W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne | Reviewed by Emily Monson, PT

Poor leadership has been identified as a major contributor and reason for employee disengagement—a challenge that is experienced by leaders and executives all over the world. This article outlines an innovative leadership approach called “the blue ocean strategy,” noting the key differences from conventional leadership approaches and how this approach can achieve better employee satisfaction and decrease workplace turnover.

The authors define and emphasize the most distinct approaches that will contribute to these gains. These include the ability to focus on acts and activities, connecting closely to market realities, and distributing leadership across all management levels to make an impact. Leaders are encouraged to implement a four-part strategy into the leadership design. The four steps of blue ocean leadership include:

  1. See your leadership reality
  2. Develop alternative leadership profiles
  3. Select to-be leadership profiles
  4. Institutionalize new leadership practices

These steps are well received by employees and transform the workplace with structure and consistency. Leaders are acting without trying to alter who they are as leaders, resulting in less overall effort and time.

The article includes statistics that are alarming. For instance, “Just 30 percent of employees are actively committed to doing a good job, 50 percent of employees merely put in their time, while the remaining 20 percent act out their discontent in counterproductive ways, such as negatively influencing their coworkers, missing days on the job, and driving customers away through poor service.” The article explains the transition process to this type of leadership strategy by providing a concrete framework to begin, involving all levels of management, which makes implementation easier than traditional leadership models. The greatest benefit emphasized in the article is that the model has “scalability” for the leadership design, allowing any level of management to begin the process and make an impact without waiting for the top leaders to launch the process. I found the article easy to follow with good direction on employee satisfaction needs and overall engagement.

Emily Monson


Emily Monson, PT, is an Impact editorial board member and owner of Clear Lake Physical Therapy and Rehab Specialists in Clear Lake and Turtle Lake, Wisconsin. She can be reached at



The article can be found at

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