Blue Ocean Leadership

What is Blue Ocean Leadership?

Definition: Blue Ocean Leadership is a leadership style that offers a systematic way to unlock and unleash the ocean of unrealized talent and enthusiasm in an organization fast and in a low budget. It is achieved by conserving a leader’s most precious asset called time.

It tries to revolutionize how a company operates starting from the inside. Along with the sales, everything else is taken into consideration too, including the people working within, the idea that satisfies the employees and anything that would add to the sales of the organization.

This leadership style suggests the leaders think of their employees like customers and then offer the services to them. They are free to leave it or purchase it. This way, it creates a better environment.

Purchasing here infers that the workers follow and appreciate a leader’s management style and are satisfied with the services provided. If they are unsatisfied with customer employees, then they can offer inadequate services to market customers and hence, disrupt the workplace.

One of the most shocking facts about employment is that only 30% of the people are wholly committed to doing their job. From the remaining 70%, 50% do not invest their time in, and the other 20% act out. These 20% show their disinterest either by negatively influencing co-workers, missing out on working days or by providing poor services to the customers.

Lately, most executives have recognized that one of their biggest fears is narrowing the vast gulf between the potential and realized talent.

Blue Ocean Leadership style was created to improve this scenario and create better working environments. World-renowned professors Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne designed this leadership style.

Similar to the blue ocean, leadership is the blue ocean strategy. Here, one can create uncontested market space by converting non-customers into customers and applying its concept and framework to help leaders recognize the blue ocean of unexploited talent and energy in their respective organizations- hastily and at low expenses.

Precisely, this leadership style is to convert those disengaged workers into engaged ones. And, the leadership here is across all the management levels not merely for those at the top levels only.

Blue Ocean Strategy Path Frameworks

Blue Ocean Strategy Path Frameworks

Mauborgne and Kim, in 2005, came up with the Blue Ocean Strategy. This strategy consists of six paths framework. These are:

  • Observe other industries and markets outside the regular reach or target
  • Observe competitors within the market to have a timely check of the updated competition
  • Change customer base and area by opening the market to different and unique customers Redefine customer base and build a market for the new base
    Determine and change the belief and emotion of the product to attract different groups of customers
  • Involve yourself and thus influence the industry

The “Six Paths Framework” method was devised primarily to advise a company to deliberate things in a different manner.

Blue Ocean Leadership Grid

This leadership strategy is an analytical tool. It often challenges individuals to check what are the activities and plans which should be stopped. Similarly, which should be done more to inspire and encourage their employees. These grids are formed based on what leaders did and what else should be added. This strategy is to provide more effective leadership.

These four categories are in the grid, which has formulated this idea of leadership. They are:

  1. Eliminate
  2. Raise
  3. Reduce
  4. Create

Difference between Conventional leadership development approach and Blue Ocean Leadership approach

The following points draw a comparison between the two styles of leadership;

  • The Blue Ocean leadership style focuses on making leaders realize the potential talent while the conventional style operates the other way.
  • The traditional leadership style emphasizes the values, qualities, traits and behavioral styles while the other one focuses on the acts and activities a leader must undertake within the organization.
  • A leader’s actions are in close links with the market realities and remain connected. On the contrary, a leader stays detached from market results or the ones that people are expected to achieve in a conventional style.
  • Blue Ocean leadership divides the leadership style into three different management levels to establish proper working. On the other hand, the conventional method focuses mostly on the executive and senior levels.
  • Leadership training requires time to ensure appropriate training. Extra time is needed in the conventional style, while high impact leadership acts and activities are attained in less time and at low costs.

All these parameters separate the two leadership styles to great lengths. Though conventional methods are still in demand, blue ocean style increases the efficiency of work and thus, the results.

How to execute Blue Ocean Leadership

Be it any leadership style; correct execution is needed. You can choose a leadership style, but executing it doesn’t go right sometimes. It makes leadership, lose its authenticity. Thus, there are four steps mentioned to complete this Blue Ocean leadership.

And these four steps are based on some principles. These principles include Engagement, explanation, and expectation. They are the basics of execution of this style. Although these principles form different ways, yet the most important are:

1. Employees are immersed in defining the role and work of the leader

Since it is not only with the decision of managers but the employees as well, the to-be leaders’ profiles are formed with the inputs of employees also. This process makes them encouraged and engaged with leaders as this gives them ownership of their leader’s works.

At this point, the manager goes to each employee and asks what the do and don’ts are which should be followed by the leader. It will make the employees and leader relationship more secure and understandable. So engaging employees is a part of a blue ocean leadership style.

2. It is easy to judge if expectations are followed or not

Clarity is important. Be it any kind of leadership; the expectations are meant to be fulfilled. Here, they follow a monthly check on reports. This check lets the leader and managers conclude what is to be done next. Also, by those meetings, the management can check on leaders. How well are they managing to change their further profile? And these leadership profiles help the management to evaluate their performances annually. This process shows the clarity of expectations and the reports.

3. Senior Managers should spearhead the entire procedure

Management is crucial. And here, respected managers take part in drawing canvases and doing interviews. They take the initiative and include everyone equally. And the involvement of other members gives them the view of what is expected from the leadership performance.

Not just leaders but the involvement of respected managers makes it worth it. The employees feel respected and involved. The initiative taken by senior managers is great and different from other leadership styles.

4. The final decision is taken only after each employee gives their consent

In selecting the new leadership profiles, everyone gives their vote. Although the members at the top are to take the final decision, everyone gets to say. All the mentees at employees can speak if they want to present an opinion, and their voices should be heard.

Also, this leadership style attains a transformation in less effort and time. It is because leaders aren’t aiming to modify who they are. And everyone is given a position and respect. Therefore, while thinking to follow this style, this execution is necessary.

Four Pillars of Blue Ocean Leadership

Kim and Mauborgne listed four pillars while formulating the Blue Ocean leadership style. These pillars suggest ways in which manager-employee relationships can be altered. These are:

1. Pillar One: Focus on acts and activities

Blue Ocean leadership, just like the blue ocean strategy, is action-based. It focusses on the acts and activities a leader must include in the agenda to provide a jump in motivation and business outcomes driven by people (customers).

It is the disparity between being asked to be motivating versus being asked to give those who lead to real-time feedbacks that eventually drives one internally. In even includes guiding people to up their game by motivating them.

The combination of these two, acts and activities, is leadership at par with a company’s strategic profile. The only difference is the aim. Here, the motto is the development of a persuasive leadership profile in which parameters like easy to observe, measure, and performance ratio, etc. are shed light upon.

This difference, in turn, has a consequence of time and resource requirements when high performance is demanded.

It is, clearly, more comfortable to change the acts and activities of a person than his or her values, behavior, or traits. Indeed, changing a leader’s characteristics is not an ultimate solution to the problem, and having the right set of qualities and values is essential. Still, changing values and behavior is something an individual can do, with the right guidance and feedback.

2. Pillar Two: Connect leadership to market realities by engaging people who confront them

It is usually observed that the leaders who are assigned by the organization are often generic and dissected from what the companies demand, keeping in mind the customers. In addition to this, even the market results that are expected from these employees are not based on the selection criteria.

For instance, in an insurance company, call center personnel were employed to fulfill customer claims rapidly. On the contrary, the leader maintained a hands-off approach to getting the claims section to cut checks quickly. As a result of this, call center personnel failed in their job as no guidance was provided to them.

The opposite of this is what Blue Ocean leadership aims at. They focus on making effective leaders. These leaders are not produced randomly but after the proper realization of the market and its stats. This leadership style does not produce leaders on generic terms for common leadership.

Customers are asked for their feedback and the difficulties that they are facing. Based on this feedback, leaders are accordingly guided for better management and results.

The whole idea behind this is to create a customer-friendly environment to ensure growth in sales and consequently no decline.

3. Pillar Three: Distribute leadership across different management levels

Even though the market today demands leaders to be appointed at every level, some companies still follow the old regime where they are majorly at the top. But an organization is claimed successful only if it has empowered leaders at each level.

Organizations need to develop leaders for effective working. So, to achieve this, it is essential to assign skilled leaders at every management level. It improves quality, efficiency, as well as the dynamics of the organization.

Blue Ocean has managed to address this by emphasizing on distributed leadership styles. Distributed means at senior, medium and frontline levels. The Blue Ocean leadership style thinks leadership is necessary at all these levels and talents must be unlocked at them individually.

4. Pillar Four: Pursue high impact leadership acts and activities at low cost

With the increasing competition, it is getting difficult to complete one’s regular job let alone attempting to up their game. Timely step changes in leadership rarely occur. Time is just not a constraint.

Blue Ocean style recognizes this difficulty. It divides the trade-off between the impact and cost by centering on what acts, and activities can be eliminated by leaders to reduce cost yet function properly. It gives time and room to unleash their talent and realize them, thus driving the energy in the right place.

It has been found out that most of the acts and activities that drain a leader’s time have not been adding to increase the efficiency of work. They are just adding to the cost and time. Reducing and eliminating these acts and activities has a significant impact on leading, increasing and producing results driven by people.

Specific tools and frameworks are employed to adopt the methodology of this leadership. The whole style evolves around these tools and methods. Without this, it becomes tedious to carry out the research and subsequently make the leaders aware of the challenges.


Blue Ocean Leadership style considers a lot of aspects that must be infused within organizations to promote a cost-effective leadership style. It dramatically increases the efficiency and the motivation with which employees work. It happens as a result of assigning leaders at each level.

Allocating skilled leaders at each management level boosts productivity. Hence, reducing time and cost. With Blue Ocean style of leadership, an organization can get definitely up its game in the market and sustain for a more extended period.

Also, the tools and analytical frameworks of this strategy are essential. And it should be followed for productive leadership. The involvement of employees in distinguishing the dos and don’t of the leader is a plus point that differentiates this style from others.

The methodology is to be followed to get the expected result. Managers, follow these principles to initiate the work and further the employees. The involvement in taking interviews and attending meetings makes them understand clearly. And we have that belief that this blue ocean leadership approach can do this understanding.

The tagline which is followed tone profiles for leaders is, “liberate, coach and empower.” It allows the members to decide within less time, also, by giving less effort. A productive leader is crucial for the management and directive of authentic leadership. And blue ocean leadership is one of them which involves work, feedback, and results appropriately.

How important do you consider Blue Ocean Leadership for effective team and business management? Update us with your views in the comments below.