Leveraging Corporate Leadership for Effective Results

Leveraging Corporate Leadership for Effective Results

A working definition of ‘Leadership’ is the ability of an individual to glean the commitment of others towards the realisation of a goal or objective (Cole 1995). A dissection of this enables the extraction of key concepts in understanding the nature, and subsequent application of leadership ability in a more effective manner.

 

An Understanding of Leadership

But I find this dissection best treated with in reverse order. Looking first at the goal or objective and its realisation, we can note certain characteristics (call it best-practices if you prefer) that guide the identification of goals. Adair (2004) encapsulated these in his SMARTER ‘checklist’, stating that goals need to be Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic, Time-bounded, Evaluated, Reviewed. If they are not, then we face some inherent risk in their realisation.

Where the objectives are unclear or not time bound, work towards its realisation tends to not be the most efficient or effective. This same would apply to the other criteria, and as a result we have within the SMARTER model an operational framework for defining goals and objectives to effectively enable their realisation.

There is another dimension to consider – that of gleaning the commitment of others. Why would people commit to the realisation of a goal? We know that except in instances of absolute selflessness (if it exists), the individual works towards a goal if it is in his/her interest or benefit to do so – whether that benefit is direct or indirect; extrinsic or intrinsic.

Further to this fundamental premise, the advent of division of labour gave rise to the basic concept of the group or organisation as we know it today – two or more persons working towards a common objective. The degrees of formality and permanence may have shifted (Cole 2003), but the underlying need of each other – be it for social, economic or other purposes – has perpetuated.

Thus guided we recognise that people would commit to a goal individually or as a group if the goal is synchronous with their desires or states of being. Restating this from another angle, people would commit to a goal that they (helped to) determine. Wallis alluded to this in saying, “there is a natural opposition among men to anything they have not thought of themselves.”

The third dimension in our understanding of leadership is that of the individual’s ability to gain that commitment from others. And it is on this point that complexity is amplified. What is that secret ingredient? Is it charisma? One’s integrity? Distinct traits, perhaps? Or is it rather situational, and a result of extenuating circumstances? Are leaders made? Are they born? Does leadership happen?

Each theory or perspective that has been offered has made a contribution to the understanding of the dynamics of leadership, but application has been quite another dynamic. And it is in lieu of the latter that we revert to the fundamentals of interpersonal interaction.

One’s ability to influence others within a corporate context is emphasised within the intersect of confidence (based on some degree of consistency in competence) communication (based on a recognition of interdependence); and commitment to a cause.

 

Confidence

People tend to respond to confidence. Whether this confidence is based on our degree of comfort in a given situation, or exudes in spite of that situation, confidence tends to effect ‘followership’. In an organisational context (based on limited research), where the person serving in a leadership capacity is confident in their position, or alternatively has demonstrated competence in performing the functions of that role, his/her subordinates tend to willingly follow the individual or at the very least respond positively to their direction. This is reinforced by Glickman (1987) who said, “…one who aspires to craft or to lead is at a loss if he/she …lacks the knowledge, skills or practices to work toward or to achieve that end.”

 

Communication

Interpersonal interaction, based on the available media and channels of communication, can (re)define the effectiveness of leaders. Two key factors in this regard have been observed to play a pivotal role in the effectiveness of leaders – the clarity and tone of communication.

Clarity of interaction tend to incorporate both transmitting and receiving information – and signalling feedback. It is not uncommon to hear of complaints of ambiguous meanings or mixed signals from their supervisors and managers – and this suggests ineffective communication.

In this regard, Gothe observed “if any man wishes to write in a clear style, let him first be clear in his thoughts.” Of course, this is not exclusive to ‘writing’ and ‘men’ only. Yet it establishes a principle which can guide us in our interaction with others – and enable us to be more effective as leaders. Boileau added to this when he said, “what is conceived well is expressed clearly and words to say it will arise with ease.”

 

Commitment

The commitment of a leader to the realisation of a goal sets the tone for the rest of the members of the group to follow. Leadership by example, ‘from the front,’ evokes in others the motivation to themselves commit to the realisation of a goal.

It is akin to the Japanese proverb that says, “No man will find the best way to do a thing unless he loves to do that thing.” Whether you choose to call it love or belief, passion or conviction, the commitment of an individual to realise a goal infuses in others drive and hope.

The abstraction of essential themes within this framework advocate that the ability to influence others centres around the ability to gain people’s trust and respect, on one part, and organising effort to stimulate and guide action, on another.

Trust and Respect from subordinates encourages them to buy-in to the goals, intentions or aspirations. Further, the leader’s ability to optimise resources (be it based on intuition or experience) instils in subordinates the confidence and by extension the willingness to follow the leader and actively pursue identified goals. Hay’s study of employee satisfaction found that:

1. Trust and confidence in top leadership was the single most reliable predictor of employee satisfaction in an organization.

2. Effective communication by leadership in three critical areas was the key to winning organizational trust and confidence:

A leader empowered with the trust, respect and confidence of his/her team can define the organisational climate and culture to enable the realisation of results. The leader can relegate impossibility to a mere state of mind. Are you up to the challenge?

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