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The standard literature considers a leader someone who focus on and cope with strategic vision, people, processes/resources and results.
When talking about strategic vision, the important thing is to look outside the company. To have an idea of where to go, our North Star. This is a process to design a picture based on pursuing client’s needs, following what ours competitors and stakeholders are doing, and understanding how technologies are transforming our business. A leader has to develop a complex system of information, process and interpretation, creativity and critical thinking – in other words, a leader has to possess higher cognitive skills.
By people, meaning how to nourish relationships and communication with team, peers and our direct leader or Board of directors. It is about dealing with relationships both inside and outside the company. Outside the company there are government, competitors, partners and clients. Inside there are team, peers, and leaders. It is about social and emotional skills, the soft skills. These skills can involve more specific abilities such as: advanced communication and negotiation, conflict resolution, accountability, networking and interpersonal skills, empathy, time management, leadership, coaching and managing others, entrepreneurship and initiative-taking, adaptability and continuous learning, teaching and training others.
By processes/resources, involve the hard skills of leadership. It is about the technical skills of controlling working processes regarding planning, monitoring and evaluating metrics, budgeting, scheduling, managing and controlling risks, delegating and allocating resources (cost and investment).
Regarding results, a lot of leaders think it is something manageable by itself. Yet when we talk about results we are talking about outcomes. What the word means, it is more a consequence of a good management of people and processes/resources then something manageable by itself. Results are related a lot more to a feedback to check whether you are doing well rather than anything else.
In such a way, it is of great importance to consider leadership itself a skill that involves all of these hard, social and emotional, and higher cognitive skills discussed previously. So, handling people is all about leading through values and purpose to create a meaningful job and motivating them to achieve results.
Moreover, leading and managing people requires from a leader the ability to deal with a technical part of management too, otherwise you will not achieve results.
However, skills are not everything leaders have to handle to succeed. There is something, most of the time people are not aware of, which impacts a lot on the art of leadership. The first one, it is about values and time allocation on the leader level. The second one, it is about managing the cultural values and communicate the purpose of the organization clearly.
Many organizations and leaders underestimate the impact of values on management. Values determine how you deal with people, processes and resources. They can be manifested unconsciously and yet be able to guide your actions and how you manage your time. Values impact on how your mindset is formed, since values are built from your experience, education and cultural background. For example, if you do not allocate time to listen to your team, probably you don't value relationships (people). Probably, you are a leader focusing a lot on results and numbers to achieve outcomes. So, if you do not prioritize time to be in touch with your team, you do not value people expectations and needs to reach outcomes.
Leaders are not good in all skills, such as emotional, social, higher cognitive and hard ones. Each leader has a story, experience, education and family references, which shape their mindset. So, leaders work with priorities aligned with their own mindset framed by values and allocate time in accordance with that. By the end of the day, values guide behaviors and management focus.
Ram Charan, an international consultant, bestseller author and famous professor focus on how abilities, time allocation and professional values have to change while leadership becomes more strategic. Most leaders think they can still manage things they had done on a former position when they are promoted to a more complex level of leadership. They think they can only add new tasks and perform on the new managing position. This is not possible. For more complex management we have to trade-off some tasks, values and how to allocate time in more strategic way. These hidden aspects of leadership – mindset and values - are the most important things to understand why some leaders are able to continue moving ahead on theirs careers, motivating a team, and overcoming their performance.
Leaders have to deal with cultural values and purpose in an organization level too. At that level, most of the time, it is also an unconscious thing to people in a company. The cultural subject has been neglected for many years in the business science literature as discussed in my MBA dissertation “The importance of culture on implementing strategic planning”(1999).
Addressing organizations values and purpose is the ability to help people to find meaning at work or why to do business with you. Dealing with the objective to communicate values and purpose managers are able to engage people inside and outside the company. Clear organizational values and purpose boost transparency and trust on how leaders manage the company and why it exists.
Is important to notice that corporate values will impact leadership only if managers are in accordance and align with them. Otherwise, corporate values will be just a sing on the wall.
Where do your strengths lay? Do you focus on higher cognitive skills, on soft skills or on hard skills? How do you manage time? What do you prioritize? What do you value?
A complete leader, with all the skills, certainly, does not exist! A good leader is someone who takes the responsibility to be a better leader each day!
To become a better leader is important to focus on these three levels. On the strategic level, understand the 4th Industrial revolution and how it is remodeling markets; client’s needs, society and your business. It is always important to reassess your North Star and vision. On an individual level, do assess your skills and take time to develop them, understand how you allocate time and discover which your values are, what is important for you. On organizational level, get to know your organization values, purpose and vision. Checks if they are aligned with your own values in other to behave consistently, then focus on how to communicate that to your team and your clients. Doing that, you will probably excel your leadership ability.
THE DIGITAL ERA AND THE IMPACT ON BUSINESS