Leadership – A Key to Business Success – Part 2
Synopsis from Part 1 (published in Jan/Feb 2018) – In part 1 of this article Leadership is defined as “a process of social influence in which a person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task” or “organising a group of people to achieve a common goal“. The manifestation of leadership can be identified by 3 distinctive characteristics – Leading, Aligning and Sustaining.
A crucial area is “Engaging the right kind of Leadership in the enterprise. In particular how businesses harness relevant leadership qualities? And how a CEO builds his team with these important behaviourial characteristics to make the organisation perform even better?”
We looked at leadership behavioural characteristics – highlighting very specific traits – confidence driven by competence, balanced views, acquired by being attentive to surroundings, humble articulation with accurate language, accountable responsibility with an openly engaging and collaborative challenging temperament.
The opposites of good leadership traits are often manifested as aggressive posturing, bold and brash challenges with a strong tendencies of downgrading achievements with lower degrees of collaboration and engagement. A negative kind of leadership, often results in encouraging adversarial behaviour amongst colleagues.
Leaders are not born but are developed
Leadership development starts as early as 8 years old. At this age youngsters are exposed to team sports, extra curricular activities and group community activities. Whilst many youngsters are given similar opportunities, not all will develop the latent leadership traits in the same manner. Positive character building at a young age are important. At an early age, transformational changes and developments are often not structured nor a conscious process, and occur mostly in a haphazard manner.
As confidence levels improve, youngsters who possess latent leadership traits, will start to emerge as leaders in activities they are involved in. They start to influence others in a natural way. This personal evolution starts to take on new dimensions in their leadership development – a self realisation that gains momentum and is manifested in several ways.
There are numerous worthy case studies and published papers on leadership development and continuous improvement of leadership effectiveness. This will not be discussed further in this article, except to illustrate that leaders are developed and not born.
Whilst a natural development of leadership can progress successfully throughout adolescence and then on adulthood, it can be a vulnerable development that could be stunted. Such vulnerabilities could be attributed to the balance and performance of the activities they are involved in. In fact the most vulnerable are those who experience negative incidences in their academic progress or even problems in the family and in social circles. Some will overcome them and become great leaders. Others will withdraw into insular or reserved behavior and fail to develop their full potential.
Identifying and selecting Leaders for your Enterprise
We appreciated that leadership development starts at young age and continues throughout adulthood. It is however the nurturing process, composed of many experiences, exposures and direct involvement that really count. It is this journey that produces leaders – with confidence, with a balanced expression and engaging in whatever challenge they undertake.
Leaders in business should ideally bring with the many of the personal characteristics outlined above. The technical experiences and exposures gained from their industrial or professional sector, add an important layer in leadership competencies. Combing these two sources, forms core leadership characteristics.
Personal leadership characteristics and technical knowledge are complimentary in the formation of world-class leaders. Continuous upgrading of their knowledge and skills to suit the times and environment they operate in, is a natural trait of a true leader – always open to learning, instigated by their own initiative.
Searching and selecting leaders for your business, is not only about their adult and career achievements. Understanding how their knowledge, exposures and experiences have developed from a younger age, is as important. This proves their inherent leadership qualities and capabilities as adults.
The identification process starts when reviewing the curriculum vitae. Well prepared CVs can be very crucial to understanding a candidate. It is also up to the candidate to structure a well presented CV.
Identifying and selecting leaders for your organisation is a very important responsibility. But also a very challenging professional experience. Extracting and testing leaders behavioural characteristics, is key to drawing out the best from the interview and knowing how to position them in the organisation.
The structure of questions and manner of responses will demonstrate and prove the specific leadership traits. We expect to see confidence driven by competence, balance & depth of views, humble articulation with accurate language, evidence of accountable & responsibility, with an open engaging and collaborative challenging temperament.
On the opposite side one must be very aware of traits that could be passed off as leadership skills. It is a clever tactic used by candidates who are not properly challenged at interviews. Manifestations of aggressive posturing, challenging approach with tendencies to downgrade others achievements, are also false signals of good leadership. Evidence of low support for collaboration and engagement amongst colleagues are other signals. In fact this negative kind of behaviour, often results in creating adversarial and unproductive situations amongst colleagues.
Selecting the right leaders for your organisation needs to be shaped around the core values of the organisation. The ranking of importance for human capital versus the other business capital, is a vital parameter. If a Corporate business culture believes that people are crucial to business success, then embedded leadership skills is an indisputable value.
How should the CEO use the leadership talent in place ?
Having found the right leaders for the organisation, retaining and growth development is crucial. Creating and sustaining the right corporate culture to grow and develop people talent, is a crucial role for the CEO. Positioning leaders in key roles, will not by itself be enough to achieve business performance. This is where people dynamics, balanced with business goals has to be finely managed across all functions.
Literature on organisational leadership and business schools in particular, emphasise staying clear from over-dependence on a leader in favour of a structured model. Such a model focuses on the individual as well as the collective talents in the organisation. This approach recognises its leaders but also the collective organisational capabilities in solving problems in a more effective and efficient way of performance.
The challenge remains, on how best to deploy leadership to effectively enable and stimulate teams. Teams and participants will need to be equipped with the right competencies to work dynamic and empowered work environments. This is a connected and motivational approach to managing people in organisations to achieve superior performance.
Sustaining good Leadership and Creating Succession.
Embedding good leaders at all levels of the organisation is about securing the Corporation’s future. This is a key strategic tool the CEO has at hand. Ensuring the sustainability of the business strategy, good business governance and a smooth succession planning program is all about people.
Financial security, Customer loyalty and Investor confidence are the key elements that must be protected and for which a strong leadership and succession planning culture will be a key enabler.
However we know too well it is quite challenging to find good leaders to run our businesses. It is even more challenging sustaining good leaders and developing a robust succession plan that CEO aspires to have.
One of the key leadership characteristics that I believe is fundamental, “is openly engaging with a collaborative challenging temperament.” This one sentence describes it all. A leader that is engaging, will look at people as an important asset in their team.
A leader that is open, will stimulate new ideas, creativity, innovation that will grow people and the landscape around them. A leader that is collaborative and challenging, will push the boundaries to new limits. Giving people the space to make mistakes, learn and develop, will in the end lead to better judgement and confidence.
Good leaders do not want to hold everyone to ransom with their power and authority. They aspire to grow the people around them, to create that depth and balance. This is what Leadership Density is about. Getting everyone involved in leadership roles, builds that depth of knowledge, skills and sustainability.
The affirmation of one “big” leader in an enterprise is a sure way to negate sustainability and succession. However the concept of a structured management of shared responsibility, is a way to develop distributed forms of leadership in the organisation.
Distributed forms of leadership is the process that implants competencies and capabilities at all levels of the organisation. It does not mean that distributed leadership challenges or replaces the CEO as the key leader but it is complimentary. The CEO will drive the Strategic Direction. But it will be that Leadership Density that will be able to execute the Tactical Strategies in the CEO’s strategic vision, within the organisation.
With this model, the CEO’s responsibility for compliance and governance, is also shared. This in fact delivers a very powerful structure – evidence of this is seen in Corporations with “best-in-class” records of good governance and compliance.
Being a leader at any level in an organisation, can be a lonely place. But it does not have to be that way. Indeed addressing the core of what makes good leadership will make leadership more productive.
I hope that young and aspiring leaders will apply effectively what they learn. To the older and mature leaders, share your knowledge.