Looking Beyond The Headlights – Leadership and learning

Leadership is the single most sought after trait in today’s business world. Leadership and learning are interlinked – you can’t have one without the other. Successful leadership makes the difference between extreme success and unnecessary failure. It underlies everything we strive to accomplish, from motivating employees to excel, to inspiring shareholders who seek confirmation of their confidence in the company and its management.
Inspired leaders know what they want and how they are going to get it. Truly inspired leadership comes from being motivated, dedicated and honest. Leadership is not job title; rather it is an expression of who you are and of your values.
Jack Welch of GE fame has six rules for leaders. They are:
• Face reality as it is not as it was or as you wish it to be.
• Be candid with everyone.
• Don’t manage, lead.
• Change before you have to.
• If you don’t have competitive advantage, don’t compete.
• Control your own destiny.
I have some tips of my own:
• Communicate well, be articulate, be honest, be upfront, be clear, be concise.
• Encourage openness, questions and ideas.
• Be included in succession planning. Don’t hesitate to put your hand up and say to your company and your bosses, “hey pick me and here’s why”. Show them your ability to claim that promotion and give it go.
• Be proactive. If you’re not thinking about the day after tomorrow, you may end up not having an office to come to tomorrow.
• Create opportunities by always being the optimist. Create cultures of innovation amongst your colleagues and peers, become an ideas company and encourage all initiative.
• Exploit those opportunities and engage through listening, through communication and in your actions.
• Collaborate and cooperate with your colleagues to come up with best solutions and implement them. It is true that more heads think better than one.
• Build trust. Companies are well on their way to building culture of trust if they have invested in supporting employees. Provide more dynamic learning opportunities and make serious attempts to integrate other young managers into the organisation more rapidly. Empower people to perform their jobs in direct support of the goals of the organisation and connect your people closely to those goals.
• Trust is an essential quality of leading the team. With the trust of your team members you will stimulate committed team atmosphere. The two most important trust building behaviours are:
a) Your actions must be consistent with your words – walk the talk.
b) Show confidence in your team’s abilities.
I also suggest adopting these three qualities for successful leadership:
• Never push too hard. Encourage employees to do more but know when you are asking too much.
• Be prepared to roll up your own sleeves. Don’t expect others to do what you’re not prepared to do.
• Always display good values. You’re leader. People need and want to respect those who lead them.

Ethics in management are mandatory. They are the most vital component of any business, any family and indeed any interaction between people. It is one of society’s most important values.
Many business difficulties – both internal and external – arise from inadequate communication. Messages become muddled or fail to register because we don’t articulate or write as clearly or concisely as we should. We sometimes prefer to communicate in writing when phone call or face-to-face meeting would be more effective, particularly when there’s conflict or tension to be resolved.
Effective communication and ethical management practices go hand in hand. Effective communication coupled with sound ethical practices enhances employee morale, strengthens relationships with customers and suppliers, and improves profitability. All companies should cultivate high levels of ethics in business practice.
At the very foundation of business ethics is the commitment to treating customers, employees, investors, suppliers, distributors and anyone else involved with one’s organisation with honesty and respect. Ethical standards start at the top. They are then embraced and embedded into every business process, practice and procedure.
Many companies are today facing difficult decisions so they must effectively communicate bad news to employees. The key to doing this right is preparation. company shows its true values when communicating bad news. Planning is essential in communicating bad news. Good planning can’t occur at the last minute.
The following checklist may assist in preparing for bad-news communication.
• Tell the truth, don’t hide or minimise the message. Honesty is credibility.
• Tell it from the “top” and make it “face to face”. Show the organisation cares.
• Do not make promises about the future that may not hold true.
• Explain what the message means and why the action is being taken. Choose words carefully as words can either bring people together or drive wedge between them.
• Explain the rationale behind the action and how the decision will support business continuity.
• Explain how the decision is fair to as many people as possible.
• Ensure and assure that fairness is shown to all affected people.

Innovation will play key role in New Zealand’s future growth. Our economic performance will depend on continuous improvement and productivity. Long-term improvements and economic performance expectations demand that firms adapt and develop an innovation culture.
Gary Hamel and CK Prahalad, authors of the book Competing for the Future, refer to innovation as forward thinking and “looking into the future beyond vehicle’s headlights”.
Entrepreneurs get their lights on high beam, have road map and hit the road looking into the space ahead of the lights. This is where the real action happens and where organisations gain market advantage.
It is important to see and seize the opportunistic future and get ahead of competitors. This is an absolute requirement for tomorrow’s successful business. There must be constant activity in the quest for sustainable, competitive advantage.
Remember, however, that innovation doesn’t occur instantaneously. But whenever innovation is delayed, opportunities to better the world are postponed or perhaps lost. We need to accelerate the process for getting good ideas to market. Constant innovation must be at the forefront of every enterprise. Every new idea or creation is important.
There are four critical factors to facilitating innovation: entrepreneurship; access to funding and resources; appropriate recognition and reward; and finally, competition.
Only about five percent of brilliant ideas successfully make it to market so consider the following:
• Does the market want it?
• What is the unique selling proposition?
• What is the sales?
• What competencies are required?
• What alliances are required?
• Does it pass the elevator test?
• What should the prototype do? The prototype plan includes more than manufacturing. It means testing.
• Who has the patent? To secure patent the inventor must demonstrate efforts to maintain confidentiality.
• Is this all written down?
All the above should be included in comprehensive timetable, business plan and reviewed periodically.
You, as generation Y’s emerging young leaders, should focus on being innovative, both in terms of your careers and your business strategies. Look beyond the headlights to reveal opportunities and marketplaces and focus beyond where your competitors are looking. Build cultures of innovation within teams, encourage ideas, become fresh thinking and break down barriers of restrictive employee participation. Invest in your colleagues by building their skills. You will not be disappointed, indeed you will survive and thrive and become very profitable.

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