Leadership…who cares?

August 6, 2009by Gillian Rossouw

You should!

The leader is the essential element to a business’s success or failure. And it is critical for a leader to create a vision and communicate the steps clearly so that team members know exactly how they will accomplish it. HG Management Consulting conducted a worldwide study of 15,000 businesses that failed from 1995-1999. The study indicated that ineffective leadership was one of the top reasons for failure 70% of the time!

Warren Bennis, author of Leaders: The Strategies for Taking Charge, warns: “A business low on capital can borrow money. And one with a poor location
can move. But a business short on leadership has little chance of survival.”

Leaders of today’s businesses must cope with a unique set of challenges. Technological, social, and economic forces compel leaders to address these issues
in order to stay ahead of the competition.

Some of these challenges include:

  • Globalisation of business leading to cultural competency requirements
  • Growth of strategic alliances
  • Acceleration of information and access to it
  • Daily innovations in technology
  • Changing demographics and workforce
  • Flattening of organisation, increased workloads and expanding skill requirements

The abundance of these external and internal forces in the business environment can destroy a company that does not have effective leadership with an eye
towards the future.

So what is leadership anyway?

Leadership is the art of motivating people to act and includes the following key aspects:

  • Managing with high energy and boundless enthusiasm
  • Giving people a sense of purpose and direction
  • Planning for success — nothing succeeds in motivating people more than being successful and nobody wants to be associated with failure
  • Dishing out plenty of praise and encouragement
  • Creating opportunities for people to get attention
  • Demonstrating confidence and faith in people’s abilities
  • Encouraging achievable tasks
  • Giving people a sense of history and hope
  • Developing a collective vision for the future

What Leadership Is Not

Warren Bennis in his book Why Leaders Can’t Lead says that leadership is not:

  • A position: Almost anyone can be elected, selected, anointed, self-appointed, promoted, or succeeded.
  • Building a personality cult: Giving too much power to one individual is detrimental to the leader, to the followers, and to the cause.
    Build collective leadership, not personality cults.
  • Being indispensable: Effective leadership is being dispensable. The mark of a true leader is
  • demonstrated by the fact that the show must and can go on without him or her.
  • Blaming others: Leadership is first and foremost being responsible for the decisions you make or fail to make.

Rate and identify the leaders in your organization

  • According to Federal Express, its best leaders share nine personal attributes. The company defines them with remarkable specificity. Federal Express
    also has a system for rating aspiring leaders. How do you rate?
  • Charisma: Instils faith, respect, and trust. Has a special gift of seeing what others need to consider. Conveys a strong sense of
  • Individual consideration: Coaches, advises, and teaches people who need it. Actively listens and gives indications of listening. Gives
    newcomers a lot of help.
  • Intellectual stimulation: Gets others to use reasoning and evidence instead of unsupported opinion. Enables others to think about
    old problems in new ways. Communicates in a way that forces others to rethink ideas that they had never questioned before.
  • Courage: Willing to stand up for ideas even if they are unpopular. Does not give into pressure or others’ opinions to avoid confrontation.
    Will do what’s right for the company and for employees even if it causes personal hardship.
  • Dependability: Follows through and keeps commitments. Takes responsibility for actions and accepts responsibility for mistakes. Works
    well independently of the boss.
  • Flexibility: Functions effectively in changing environments. When a lot of issues hit at once, handles more than one problem at a
    time. Changes course when the situation warrants it.
  • Integrity: Does what is morally and ethically right. Does not abuse management privileges.
  • Is a consistent role model.
  • Judgement: Reaches sound and objective evaluations of alternative courses of action through logic, analysis, and comparison. Puts
    facts together rationally and realistically. Uses past experience and information to bring perspective to present decisions.
  • Respect for others: Honours and does not belittle the opinions or work of other people, regardless of their status or position.