• Tuesday, April 16, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Leading effectively

Leadership is about serving humanity

The recognised and respected Centre for Creative Leadership in the US, which provides services for more than 2,000 organisations, over 20,000 individuals, and 80 of the Fortune 100 companies, conducted research that found that there are three main reasons why both organisations and individuals fail. They are: (1) an inability to be a team player; (2) difficulty handling change; and (3) poor interpersonal skills.

It needs to be understood that leadership is essentially a relationship and an emotional bond between the one leading and the one being led. The truth is that people are more convinced by emotional arguments than rational arguments. It is more effective when the latter is used to back the former. Also, the traditional top-down alignment of yesteryear, where the leader is the only one who sets the goals, the vision, and the strategy and then tries to get all the subordinates to align with his view, simply does not work anymore.

The buy-in of others—subordinates, stakeholders, citizens, or what have you—must be sought for your plan to have any chance of success. This is especially true if the leader seeks to bring about change and successfully manage it. Having said all this, however, it still remains the responsibility of the leader to set the tone.

Q: “So, if a leader is able to tie the change that needs to happen to what is meaningful to the governed, the people will gladly change and follow the leader.”

People will only change when they want to, so it is still possible to salvage a “lost cause” if you make the people desire to change. Therefore, the leader must be able to inspire. People do not change because their job requires them to or just because their government demands it; they change because they aspire to a better future, so when you tap into what is important to you, you can achieve just about anything.

The nature of man is to resist change when it is foisted on him and he cannot see how it would benefit him, but he loves change and willingly embraces it when it comes from within him. There is a world of difference between trying to get motivated to do what we are told we should do and doing what we believe in, want to do, or need to do. So, if a leader is able to tie the change that needs to happen to what is meaningful to the governed, the people will gladly change and follow the leader. This, of course, requires a leader who is able to make the people see the connection. How does what I need to do tie in with what I see as meaningful and beneficial to me? To put it simply, a leader of change must be able to paint a clear picture of a shared vision.

The first skill that a leader who wishes to effect change must possess is the ability to sell a compelling vision. He or she must be able to communicate in a way that will cause others to not just see the goals very clearly but to be able to relate to them so as to win over their commitment to the said project. He must be able to create an atmosphere of shared positivity, which makes change easier to accept. A study conducted by the Centre for Creative Leadership on 275 organisations found that there are three skills, otherwise known as the 3 C’s, that a change-driven leader must possess to be able to connect the process part of change to the human part of change. They are as follows:

(i) Communicate:

Leaders who convey to the lead why the change is necessary, its benefits both to the organisation and to the led, and are also able to connect the change to the organisation’s values, succeeded in getting the buy-in of the people. This is the “what” and the “why.” The unsuccessful leaders largely focused only on the “what.”.

(ii) Collaborate:

Successful change leaders were found to encourage employee participation in planning, decision-making, and execution from the get-go and totally eradicate the tendency for unhealthy competition. He ingrained the belief that it was a collective goal. Unsuccessful leaders, on the other hand, tended to leave many of the staff totally out of the change process, thereby alienating them and missing out on their potentially useful contributions.

(iii) Commit:

The successful leaders were tenacious and resilient. Trying to bring about change will throw up many hurdles and, at times, appear impossible, but the character of a successful change maker is one of steely determination to succeed even in the face of adversity, and this positive attitude rubs off on the subordinates too. Unsuccessful leaders were found to flounder when faced with challenges and were negative in outlook, especially when results took time to materialise.

A successful change leader is one who understands the critical role a sense of engagement and ownership by employees in an organisation, government, or society plays in the pursuit of success as a leader. Because of this, such leaders are quick to dispense of micro-managing systems that centralised decision-making and instead delegate authority all the way down the ladder to frontline workers, who, at the end of the day, are the ones closest to most of the problems and opportunities that the institution or organisation faces.

Nothing makes more sense than getting the buy-in of those who will ultimately be responsible for implementing policies and decisions. The buy-in will significantly increase the subordinate or employee’s faithfulness to implementation and commitment to making it work. The task of making subordinates and employees part of the decision-making process is something that Jim Collins pointed out in his highly celebrated book, Good to Great, as one of the essential factors that catapulted some organisations above comparable peers from being just good to attaining greatness.

Changing the nation, one mind at a time!