The one thing left unspoken in weeks of unrelieved mass media reports on that Gulf war and the Severs Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS ) outbreak was the issue of leadership ( or lack of it in some quarters ). Britain’s PM displayed some when he recognised that Iraq’s reconstruction as well as issues such as the Palestinian question were equally important as driving into Baghdad. US President George W Bush displayed less of it when he kept focusing on the war issues. Beijing’s mayor and China’s Health Minister both got the sack for covering up the extent of SARS in China. Singapore’s government was commended for it transparency.
In those key leadership moments, I think leadership could be distilled into THREE elements:
The essence of leadership is determined by how well an organisation knows itself.
Too many people parroting a line or simply following order from fear result in demoralised, confused people or people who manned the mundane aspects of the Auschwitz-Belsen concentration camps. In order to achieve self-understanding, it must start at the top and reach every one in the rank and file. Tough questions include matters like – what kind of company do I want to work for? What are my personal and professional life expectations with respect to working with this organisation? Do I have what it takes to fit in or will I be better off elsewhere? The details include discussing at board or work group level matter such as remuneration, employee perks, vision of the company, short, medium and long term goals, and leadership style ( a whole different topic I’ll go into another time ).
Without this, a company executive board sails a ship full of fools or reluctant slaves to the paycheck.
In corporate Singapore, accessibility to top management is generally like squeezing wine from a rock – a hard and sour experience. People spend years working to get to the top so they can enjoy the corner office with the windows; or perhaps the executive boardroom’s snack bar – whatever – then they shut themselves off from the hoi polloi of the organisation that they were supposed to better understand.
Kevin Smith, the top executive of an investment organisation, prefers to keep an open plan concept in his office. A free flow of ideas, cubicle side – discussions and such keep the office humming and the ability to stay in touch with what is happening on the frontline. I used to work in an organisation where the boss didn’t even share the same floor as any other major corporate department. Many of my own colleagues wondered how he actually filled his days.
Again, think about how well an organisation knows itself and the issue of accessibility. if you are not communicating the organisation’s tasks and vision and staying in touch with those that you need to complete the mission, you’ve missed the point about being a leader
Finding the right team:
is what makes or breaks projects, deadlines and corporate goals. Again I can’t underestimate the importance of sharing the vision and putting in as much as mush as the next guy. How does a sales department feel working 60 hour weeks when it the boss who’s leaving early for drinks at his club or a round of golf? Those who refuse to or are unable to make changes to meet the new visions and challenges will eventually wake up and smell the coffee. the best organisations never ask them to leave but counselling and a detailed explanation of how they don’t fit in should make these organisation members realise their time in the group is fast coming to an end.