Leadership – a Key to Business Success (Part 1) – LogiSYM January/February 2018

Understanding what is good leadership

Leadership is probably the single most important personal competency required to drive, develop and sustain an Enterprise. But leadership is not easy to define. So what exactly does one mean by leadership and how do you position it in the organisation?

This may seem a very fundamental question that could be answered in reverse. If leadership is missing, what is the resultant impact? Depending on the type of organisation, the effects could be very different. The commonly visible symptom if leadership is missing, is the feeling of chaos, lack of direction, demotivation and frustration in general within the Enterprise.

But not everyone holds the same understanding of leadership. And it is not infrequent to see how the application and use of leadership, is often misinterpreted to mean something else. Such misconceptions can confuse people in an organisation. And when confusion sets in, several negative issues can ensue. Disruption and disharmony are often the signals of ineffective leadership within the organisation.Leadership has been described 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”. For example, some understand leadership as simply somebody whom people follow, or as somebody who guides or directs others. While others define leadership as “organising a group of people to achieve a common goal”. { Wikipedia definition }

The Wikipedia definition may be fine. But in business, the expectation of leadership is more than just of social influence and guidance. The manifestation of leadership in a business environment can be identified by 3 distinctive characteristics. They are principally Leading, Aligning and Sustaining.

Each of these characteristics, contain very specific, defining behavioural traits and competencies vital to enabling business success.

  1. Leading is about Visioning – seeing the big picture, Anticipating – thinking ahead, Solutions driven (oriented to overcoming obstacles), Trusted – influencing groups by self competence, Courageous – initiates forward movement & ventures into unchartered territory with diligence & with a high probability of success, Ownership & Accountability -takes responsibility for actions.
  2. Aligning – is about Connecting – the big picture too, the common threads across the upper, middle & lower levels of the organisation, linking – the company’s mission & goals to deliver the results drives coherence of focus. It applies a transversal approach to management that avoids “silo” organisations & singular focus.
  3. Sustaining – is about Investing – in medium & long term sustaining factors, People, Innovation, Quality, Environmental, Social Responsibilities and in the Business Stakeholders (Customers & Suppliers).

A good leader will be able to balance these 3 distinctive characteristics, adapting to the conditions and landscape in their perimeter of responsibility. It is also crucial that a leader tempers the intensity of each characteristic with relevance and freshness for the situation they are confronted with.

An important trait of a leader, which is not always evident, is their ability to form a clear focus on issues. And in particular when involved in problem solving. Even if they do not have all the answers and solutions. It is their clear vision and focus, coupled with the energy that drives a good leader to use their expertise and command due respect.

It is in these leadership traits that one can see the effectiveness of leaders management style. They do not need to exert excessive control in order to be effective. As they engage and focus on collaborative teamwork, it is their style and approach that is the key to achieving success.

Engaging the right kind of Leadership in the enterprise.

How can a CEO benefit from leadership styles in their organisation ?
The key questions would be, how does the business harness relevant leadership qualities? And how can a CEO build his team with these important behavioural characteristics to make his organisation perform even better?

The starting point is to understand what kind of leadership skills and competencies the business needs to grow and develop. The next would be to identify if such leadership traits and competencies already exist, in some form, within the organisation. They could well exist, but be latent and not manifested nor identified because no one has possibly been able to see them.

Identifying and mapping the potential talent in the enterprise is often overlooked. This is indeed a simple process. Look around, speak to people and observe their behaviour. It will soon be evident who are the potentials from within. This journey of discovery will open a whole new world of understanding and motivation to power the organisation forward.

This may seem like a major project and challenge to launch. But indeed it is not! The channels and opportunities are all available, as well as, for free. The two obvious opportunities are during the interview process at recruitment stage and during the annual performance appraisal process.

These are the moments when one can identify the leadership assets in the organisation – but you have to be organised to look for them. When leadership characteristics have been identified, a whole new approach to management will open up.

The first step will be necessary to assess the individual’s potential capabilities. This can be tested by using an approach of structured assessment models. Preferably these models should be linked or emulate the reality of the working conditions.

A very useful tool is the “situational leadership” model, but here are others too. Candidates will need to react to unknown conditions or circumstances. These would often be the real challenges facing any Enterprise. It is not enough to launch an assessment model for the sake of the initiative. The analysis process that follows is very crucial to the effectiveness and pay back of the program. Analysing the assessment responses, reactions and the emotional temperament are also very crucial indicators. It helps us understand the extent and depth of the leadership qualities inherent the person’s character.

Are leaders born, or are they made?

A very familiar question often asked is, “are leaders born, or are they made”?

We understand that leaders are not born as such. However, it is believed that fundamental leadership traits are inherent in the individual’s character at the time of birth. And it is these traits that can later be fully developed into leadership characteristics. They often manifest themselves in the various behavioural and emotional intelligence traits that we seek to look for with great enthusiasm.

But how do these latent traits, develop into the right leadership characteristics?

The development process is quite complex and varies among different individuals. It has to start with that personal desire and ability to grow. It is this that stimulates their individual latent leadership abilities and subsequent development. But an area that is strongly influential and that is rarely considered, is the environment in which young people live and grow-up in the critical formative years of their lives.

This will have a major influence on an individual’s natural abilities and motivations to progress.

That ability to project naturally those leadership characteristics and visible behavioural traits, stems from that inner latent resource. These internal triggers bring out the leadership qualities in an individual, that need to be nurtured from an early stage and throughout the formative educational period. But we can also state, that even those fortunate young people who have had the best education and opportunities, do not necessarily turn out to be good leaders.

Observing leaders behavioural characteristics, one will see very specific traits. We see confidence driven by competence, balanced in-depth views acquired by being attentive to surroundings, humble articulation with accurate language, takes accountable responsibility and is openly engaging with a collaborative challenging temperament.

The opposites of good leadership traits are often manifested as aggressive posturing, bold and brash challenges with strong tendencies of downgrading achievements. An obvious lower degree of collaboration and engagement amongst people is common. In fact, this negative kind of leadership often results in encouraging adversarial behaviour amongst colleagues.

Whilst potential leaders have been exposed to several enterprise situations and tested in various challenging scenarios, not all will be successful to lead and grow corporations of where the human capital is a crucial asset.

In part 2 we shall look at how selecting and positioning the right leadership in an organisation will change the way a CEO can achieve business growth and effective performance.

Joe Lombardo
Founder of ESP Consult

Joe Lombardo has advised CEOs on change management through a supply chain focus.
The need for change is a very likely and necessary step for their business development and sustainability. However, starting a journey of transformation within their organisation can be hugely daunting. This introduction to a transformational journey illustrates that it is not as complicated or as expensive as it may seem. But the rewards and benefits will be significant. ESP Consult advises on structuring the model to facilitate and successfully implement Adaptive Supply Chain driven organisation. For those involved, it has been an enlightening and motivating experience.