As we keep facing disruptions and uncertainties, change is now a constant. To achieve leadership excellence, a shift in mindset and actions is vital. I have observed many companies fail due to lack of sound leadership skills. On the other hand, I have seen companies which grow due to a few habits and discipline leaders demonstrate in their day to day activities.
The purpose of this article is to enable you to move to a higher platform which will impact effectiveness and growth.
Step Back: Leaders need to step back and observe what is happening. There was a retreat I facilitated for a mid-sized service company. The retreat was for owners, executives, and the management team. Over a two-day period, each leader was given time to simply reflect, observe and share their perception. After the first day, the whole group was energised as new insights started emerging. This whole experience resulted in new approaches at board and management level. While execution is vital to forge forward, stepping back and gaining a different lens of perception, will clarify the core pipeline of activities. It is this perception which will add leverage to the overall growth. Consider stepping back as an investment in transforming processes.
Connecting the Dots: Leaders need to connect dots within the organisation as well as external stakeholders. When these touch points are identified and connected, there is clarity and accountability. In a manufacturing industry, we had a brainstorming session where the executive team came up with a complete visual sketch of the internal and external linkages at every activity point. At the centre of the sketch was the core purpose of the organisation. There was different colour coding all over exhibiting which areas needed extra attention and training. We also identified the leverage points and what we needed to do in order to add more traction to those critical turning points. The complete blueprint gave a 50,000 feet overview which was followed by scheduling action steps. The impact was game changing for this company.
Innovation: We constantly hear of disruption and new entrants whose costs are well contained and who can afford to price goods cheaper. When we consider companies like Nokia which lost over 50% market share in a short period, or blackberry which was one of the most popular smartphones having lost much of it’s ground to other strong brands. The life span of products and certain services is shorter than ever before. Leaders must seek ways to innovate more often than ever before. Simply copying what your competitors bring new to the table can be very stressful. For leaders to innovate, they need to constantly ask pertinent questions. We see innovation all around us from some of the most successful brands. Whether it is a toothpaste manufacturer or the motor industry, the movers and shakers are always stretching their boundaries.
Return on time: Distractions are all around us and in some ways we can control to a certain degree. Despite every effort, we note that focusing on what adds leverage is often missed. During a board meeting of a mid sized manufacturing company, I observed that the agenda and the discussions were not in line. While it is important to have constructive discussions, deviations from the core purpose of discussions can be costly. In this instant, the whole board’s time was not adding value at a certain stage. What was interesting to note is that every member of the board felt stressed and the outcome was not as expected. We are bombarded with information from all over making it difficult to cope with meeting expectations. Excellent leaders know exactly where to spend their time. They are very careful to ensure they not only balance their time between deadlines and priorities, but also identify opportunities to increase return on their time.
Confidence: Leaders who are constantly progressing are confident. Confidence comes from having competence and a heightened level of intelligence. They radiate certainty in everything they do. They understand the fine lines between confidence and hubris. But that is not all. They will listen and steer as well as lead with respect and authority. After speaking at a conference, I had a chat with some staff members of a financial institution about their work. They told me they loved their job and told me, it was their CEO who was always confident and upbeat. He used to confront challenges with a calm mind yet be firm. They felt safe and secure under his leadership.
This list is not exhaustive and there are other key leadership traits which drive leadership excellence. Some of the above points are common sense but sadly not common practice. Leadership is about strong connectivity to the purpose of an organisation, accountability and evolving with the changes taking place in the global landscape. Remember, leadership excellence comes from consistent progression and adapting to change which is here to stay.
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