Leadership—the Merriam-Webster dictionary describes this noun as:
- A position as a leader of a group, organization, etc.
- The time when a person holds the position of leader
- The power or ability to lead other people
“So what is leadership?
Leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.”
Simply put leadership is a process through which one uses one’s social influence in ensuring others maximize their efforts so that a common goal is achieved. The key words here are process & social influence.
Nowhere in this definition do you find anything connected to one’s position (in an organisation). This is exactly where we often make the critical mistake in our approach to and in our execution of leadership. More often than not we approach leadership based on our ‘position power’ that we are empowered with and not with the social influence that we need to develop. That, in itself, is a huge mistake!
As Kevin Kruse succinctly puts it, Leadership is about:
- Social influence NOT authority or power
- To be a leader you need others (i.e. followers) and not positional ‘direct reports’
- Being an effective leader is all about being authentic. Being you and not ‘playing a role’.
- Having a clearly defined goal that is achieved through influencing other for the intended outcome NOT going through the motions of influencing.
Leadership directly impacts about on the sustainability of a business. The single most important attribute of leadership is influence. Why? Because through influence one needs to engage the audience.You can’t lead without having an engaged audience or followers.
And how do you get an engaged audience?
Whilst a lot has been written and even more has been spoken about leadership, we still have an issue of fair to poor leadership in many organizations.
Is this scenario because of we can’t develop leadership skills or we simply don’t believe leadership can’t be taught or, as adults we just can’t unlearn in order to re-learn new skills?
In today’s business climate, being sustainable i.e. having an ethically viable and profitable brand over long-term, should be one of the three key business priorities. The other two priorities stem from sustainability and are, organisational sustainability and financial sustainability.
To deliver on making a business sustainable, strong, dynamic and influential leadership is critical in order to have a brand that is respected and is engaged with its stakeholders.
In the journey of making a brand sustainable (and it’s not a program/project that will bear fruit in a year, mind you!) organisational leadership is critical and key to success.
Leadership, that has the emotional & intellectual maturity to, engage the organisation’s rank and file on a one to one in order to have a motivated group of followers who understand their role and appreciate the challenge is must- have. Well, that’s easier said than done!
To engage and endear themselves, leaders have to approach the staff at various levels using various methods. And leaders have to remind themselves that the ‘status and power they have and use to drive business socially’ is for the external world.
Not for staff.
Leaders need to have the ability to compartmentalize their behaviour between how they represent the brand externally and internally. The behaviour leaders display internally is what staff will pick up and emulate in their interactions with respective stakeholder groups. Thus, unknowingly leaders could be setting themselves up for failure if they are not cognizant of their own internal behaviour and their level of engagement with their staff.
Without an engaged rank and file behind the leader, delivering the image projected externally becomes fraught with danger.
Thus, endangering the brand’s sustainability. And without the brand being sustainable, the organisation’s process & financial sustainability simply fades out of the long-term picture.
- When real Leadership impact on employee engagement (mlagrow3.wordpress.com)
- What is Conscious Leadership? (gifcl.com)
An organisation’s success in its endeavors is, inextricably, tied to the culture that the organisation has. Culture that is defined by the people, the processes of the organisation and the behaviour that the leaders, of the organisation, display on the job.
- People—people are diverse and when they come into an organisation they bring, along with their technical competencies and skills, their individual biases in terms of team leadership, team-work and clarity in communication.
- Processes—processes that are in place in an organisation impact how the staff carry out their activities. Either the processes aid daily works functioning or they hinder and as a result be the source of a tremendous stress.
- Business Purpose—the reason why the organisation exists and what is it they need to do to ensure the organisation is sustainable.
So when we have a diverse group of people with a load of processes in place and specific leadership styles in play, a cultural make up forms, which is what the organisation operates on.
The importance of what leaders display, as their behaviour, cannot be understated. What the leaders, knowingly or unknowingly, display sets the behavioral indicators for staff who then emulate the same.
This has serious implications on the day-to-day functioning of an organisation, on the emotional (and physical health) of the employee, and finally on the organisation’s brand image and reputation.
The key lever here that can be pulled is leadership. Depending on the industry sector and the organisations position within that sector and its mission, leadership becomes the only critical element that will either build or destroy the organisation.
As a leader tasked with turning around organisation culture, it becomes absolutely critical to:
- Understand the business you are in and thus focus on the critical aspects of housekeeping in order to get the organisation to battle-worthy status
- Individually, work with the teams, in those critical areas to ensure achievement
- Identify champions and recognise and reward them ethically and socially
- Groom a second line of decision makers to provide succession planning
Whilst this is neither an exhaustive list nor is it a fail-safe list, these four leadership ‘must-do’s’ is based on my interactions, over my career, with CEO’s and managing directors of various types of organisations. Organisations who have been successful in changing their culture because their leaders did these four steps.
- What Leadership Was and What Leadership Has Become (shoretelsky.com)
- Top companies ‘have strategies for leadership development’ (informaaustralia.wordpress.com)
- “Leaders we have, leadership we do not” (causeandeffective.net)
Looking for some information on how ‘going digital’ impacts on an organisations’ strategic planning and business process, I came across an excellent article in ‘Strategy + Business’ that was published in May 2013.
The article elaborates how, inspite of all the re-engineering organisations have failed to obtain the impact that they should have had by going digital. The question is why?
Quoting from the article—”Instead of re-engineering, they need reimagining. They need to conceive of their business freshly, in line with the capabilities that digital and business technologies can give them, connecting to customers in ways that have not been possible before.”
Here’s the link to the article and it’s a great read to know what you should be doing if your organisation is heavily into the digital space:
More and more educational institutions around the world are offering degree programs and diplomas in Islamic finance and banking. This is a good sign as it indicates that the growing global Islamic finance industry has a rising demand for competent and trained talent.
In this article, I wrote for Islamic Finance News, I look at the issue of why graduates are struggling to find jobs after qualifying? (Pages 30-31)
Last week, I caught up with a couple of close friends. The professional commonality amongst us is our job role where all three of us are involved in business planning i.e. we all are involved in the development of our respective organisations business strategy and at the same time we have KPI’s to deliver on specific areas.
During our catch-up, as usual, the conversation rambled through the industry and country economic outlook, focus on new emerging global markets, importance of collaborative partnerships, ethical marketing. In short, all pretty high-octane stuff! Till we converged onto the issue of ‘corporate culture‘ and the importance of being able to know the cultural fit of an executive.
Why is cultural fit so important? Well, two reasons:
- Human Capital– is an asset for any organisation. Without human capital there is no organisation and in turn no brand. So on this criteria, enormous investments are made in talent development including training & leadership grooming.
- Organisational Culture– Creating a culture that enables executives to be happy doing their jobs and wanting to do their best, is by far, the only way to maximise productivity and efficiency. It’s the organisational culture that manifests through the executive interpersonal communication and interaction to all stakeholders. This, is the single most important, driver in creating brand perception and image.
Being currently involved in a change management process, that involves initiating measurable KRA (Key Result Areas) & KPI (Key Performance Indicators) system and aligning the same with a global quality standard benchmark, has brought home the importance of how ‘corporate culture‘ impacts on the profitability & organisational health.
In trying to get some more learnings in this area, I came across a fabulous exercise being conducted by an organisation, that I respect and admire tremendously– “The Fast Company’s– Co. Exist unit”. Here’s the story:
Read on and I hope this will provide some food for thought on the importance of knowing your organisational culture and identifying how your executives fit into that culture.
Comments & thoughts most welcome.
- The Five “C’s” To Corporate Culture Success (edelman.com)
- Culture eats your structure for lunch (thoughtmanagement.org)
This is the final part of a three-part article on
how a CSR based planning can develop a sustainable business strategy
The increasing demand for lifestyle products and services by the global Muslim community is not surprising given the purchasing power (of the community) and its young age. Is this an opportunity for entrepreneurs as well as global brands?. Whilst there are some well-known brands ‘communicating’ and customising the brands’ message and physical attributes for the Muslim consumer segment, by a large, such brand “avtaar’s” are not yet in mainstream marketing (at least not in the high-ticket items).
This final post looks at whether Islamic ethics and governance can aid a brand to develop loyalty and involvement?
The opportunity for a brand to use Islamic ethics and governance in brand marketing to project a socially beneficial identity is there. I’m talking about a business operation which conducts itself on the platform of Islamic ethics and as a result its reputation through its brand, in any activity, internally and externally, is always with the intention of benefitting the society, and both involved parties.
(Note: The organisation does not need to be a Muslim one. Personally speaking,Islamic ethics are ethical values, that I believe, are common in terms of needs of commercial interaction between two parties i.e. in any commercial transaction each party is always looking to benefit. Thus if transparency, committment and a ‘best-intent’ is already manifested within the offer, automatically, the transaction will benefit both concerned.)
For e.g: a Islamic banking institution can project the ethics to show itself head and shoulders above its competitors in its category as a corporate brand. ( Based on the ethical approach the financial instiutitions’ process vs another’s can be totally different. This, in effect, can become the competitive advantage for that financial institution and in fact be the key reason why consumers would want to associate with that corporate brand.
Strategically, the financial institution, (for its retail banking arm, or its customer service, or even a basic CSR program), can also do a “blue ocean” and approach the entire financial services business from the perspective of ‘being beneficial to the society” by virtue of enabling the citizen to be debt-free and/ or generate the habit of savings or prudent spending.
The question is “why not”?
It has its risks.
- Risks of not having immediate customer conversion,
- Not having immediate sales and therefore profit
Risks that are the way we know risks today.
Similarly in the consumables category, a brand can be profitable (and that’s not a sin) from utilising a transparent, honest and ethical approach in building “trust” with its target group.
In fact such a brand would generate a loyal base of customers which would be ever growing and the WOM (word of mouth through the customers own social media network) would lead to the brand expanding geographically.
But the issue is, “is this possible?”
This is a totally different perspective in marketing thinking (vis-a-vis what has been historically done).
It’s the beginnings of CHANGE.
One has to be convinced and brand owners and managers have to believe in the change and in its social benefit, in order, for change to manifest. In time, manifest it will as awareness, understanding and knowledge seep into the consumers. Into society as a whole.
This is when the brand that initiated the change, that provided the knowledge, that came across (and established itself) as having no “hidden agendas” would rule the hearts and heads of its community groups.