Leadership in the new economy by Lynnaire_Johnston


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          In The New

                   By Lynnaire Johnston
                       Word Wizard

          Based on an article published in
               Innovate, May 2012

www.wordwizard.co.nz ● 0800 WIZARD ● 03 482 1364 ● info@wordwizard.co.nz
Leadership in the new economy
By Lynnaire Johnston

Summary—what is leadership?                             as natural disasters (as seen in Christchurch),
• Hallmarks of good leadership are                      technology improvements and regulations, plus a
  communication, collaboration and the                  difficult economic situation.
  inclusion of employees in decisions.
                                                        Informal vs formal communication styles
• Learn to be yourself and know the value of
                                                        Due to their size, smaller organisations have
  what you can contribute.
                                                        leaders with closer relationships to their workers
• Make time for people, be the visible face of the
                                                        and so rely on informal ways to communicate. In
                                                        larger organisations there are the challenges of
                                                        multiple locations, different structures and the
                                                        need to create more processes that allow them to
Is the face of leadership changing in New Zealand
                                                        connect at different levels.
as a result of the economic recession? This mini
report invites three people whose roles give them       Too, more leaders are realising that a really strong
a first-hand look at what’s going on in the top         culture will give them a competitive advantage
echelons of New Zealand business to speak about         where employees feel a sense of belonging and
the face of leadership today.                           commitment to the organisation instead of merely
                                                        picking up pay cheques.
Sanchia Yonge, managing director of                     In today’s tough business environment, communi-
Kenexa|JRA                                              cation, collaboration and including employees in
             In her role for workplace survey           decisions are all qualities of good leadership.
             provider Kenexa|JRA, Sanchia Yonge         Yonge says, “It’s important that culture matches
             has noticed a distinct change in           the business you’re in. If it demands innovation,
             leadership styles in the past five to 10   the organisation must be open to new ideas, risk-
             years. The era of top-down                 taking and allowing employees to make mistakes.
leadership supported by standard processes and
                                                        In New Zealand, business is relationship-based.
systems is over. Leaders need to inspire others to
                                                        People move around to different organisations so
achieve and to grow as quickly as their
                                                        leaders need to be straight forward and
environments demand. She describes this as the
transformational or motivational model.
Yonge says businesses today are operating in an         Trust – the hallmark of a top leader
increasingly changeable and complex environment         “Building high levels of trust is the hallmark of a
dominated by disruptive technology. This is             top leader. This promotes solution-based
changing how we do everything from                      organisations where people work together more
communicating to paying our bills or socialising.       efficiently to solve their own problems. They need
This means leaders are no longer fully in control as    to have a broad set of skills and roll up their
customers and employees are finding new ways to         sleeves,” says Yonge.
connect with each other and to access
information. While this provides opportunities, it      The best leaders empower their employees, she
can also cause problems.                                explains. “They set a vision for their team
                                                        members to get behind, they empower employees
“Leaders need to embrace it themselves in order
                                                        who fully understand the end goal. Leaders
to create a high trust culture that allows
                                                        demonstrate and communicate the organisation’s
employees to carry out online engagement,” she
                                                        greater purpose. For example, AA Insurance has
                                                        seen the disaster in Christchurch test the strength
Organisations have many more stakeholders               of its culture. Employees worked above and
nowadays and a more demanding and hostile               beyond their normal tasks, with enormous
environment which includes external factors such
increases in levels of employee engagement.”         These are the kind of people that get on and make
Yonge says there is certainly room for               it happen; they are pragmatic. Real leadership,
improvement. “In a downturn, there is less                           she says, is the stuff you do every
funding available to spend on training to develop                    day when no-one is looking.
people. But to fully equip employees to drive the                    You’re not a leader by dint of
company forward and to provide satisfaction to                       subscribing to Harvard Business
those workers, they need to be upskilled.                            Review, doing a course or gaining
Organisations that are prepared to invest get                        a qualification. To have the
great commitment in return. They also benefit        leadership X-factor you need emotional
from increased productivity, lower turnover and      intelligence.
lower absenteeism as employees feel engaged          “It’s the way they treat other people; to have the
and therefore want to do the best they can for the   leadership X-factor you don’t need to be the
company.                                             smartest but you do need the right attitude and to
The most recent Best Workplace Survey found          be emotionally resilient.”
that one third of employees feel engaged, the        Campbell believes many people in Christchurch
highest in five years. That’s a result of greater    showed incredible leadership skill following the
rewards and recognition trickling down, says         earthquake by putting aside their own needs or
Yonge.                                               situation to focus on others. “It’s easy to be a
                                                     leader on a good day but the real test of our
Organisations working actively to hold on to the     leadership is how we behave during the tough
best                                                 times,” she says.
With the optimism now evident in the business
community, there are more options for employees      Diplomacy is an underrated skill in leadership,
who may wish to move on and organisations            according to Campbell, who says our ego gives us
realise this. They are working actively to hold on   confidence but it’s also a weakness when it
to their best employees.                             prevents us from developing the leadership
                                                     capability of those around us. “The best advice I
Most organisations tend to be top-down in
                                                     ever got in my first CEO role was, ‘it’s not about
management style, even those that aspire to be
                                                     you any more’.”
modern (adaptive with high levels of team worker
engagement). If they want to thrive they must        Leadership embodied in strong spirit
achieve and sustain high levels of collaboration,    Some leadership characteristics are inherent in
communication, customer focus and be prepared        our Kiwi make up. Campbell says we don’t assume
to be adaptive.                                      we can’t do something, we have a strong spirit,
When times are tough, the best workplaces            and we tend to under-promise and over-deliver.
explain to staff why they’re making the decisions    “Kiwi leadership has a lovely humility with it that’s
they make, they become transparent, admit            very under-rated. Top leaders will often operate
mistakes and readjust course when necessary.         below the radar, not seeking fame and glory. They
Good leaders are highly visible and interact with    work hard to encourage people, they give back to
workers, and openly address their concerns and       their communities (and NZ Inc) and have multiple
anxieties.                                           projects on the go at once,” she says.

Yonge says the number one thing leaders need to      “I agree that the tall poppy syndrome exists here
ask themselves is whether they can listen to         and we have a lot of work to do with our kids in
feedback and translate that into smart business      order to develop their leadership abilities. We
decisions. Employee surveys, she believes, are a     have to start from the ground up, if we want to
very valuable metric which can be used year-on-      spark dreams in our kids.
year to measure trends.                              “Optimism is incredibly important in leadership
                                                     but really attitude is the key. If you don’t have the
                                                     right attitude you will never in my mind make an
Shelley Campbell, chief executive, Sir Peter
                                                     exceptional leader.”
Blake Trust
From Shelley Campbell’s perspective great leaders    Campbell believes the principles of great
are those who don’t tell you, they show you.         leadership are the same whether a company is
small or large. The ability to create organisational   dark times are when leaders shine.
clarity and mobilise people to achieve this is         “And the failure of a business doesn’t necessarily
common to both types but we all have to                reflect on a leader’s abilities. Strong leaders can
understand which environments we operate best          emerge from the chaos of a business failure.
in. You have to understand yourself, how you           Christchurch has been a fantastic example of true
think, learn and deliver, and choose roles that play   leadership emerging.”
to your strengths and get you in your zone, she
says.                                                  Some businesses have used the recession to
                                                       revisit their business models and strategy, a very
Some people are effective in smaller teams,            useful process.
others in larger. Some people can make the
transition from one to the other successfully,         People also look at their personal lives in a
others sink. It’s not a given that you’ll be good at   recession and reassess their own personal goals,
both.                                                  says Campbell.
Entrepreneurial types will struggle in public sector    “New Zealand is not well served when we make
organisations because of the bureaucracy and           assumptions about what leadership looks like or
process. They’re used to lightening fast change        reserve the concept of leadership to acts of
and can struggle to make the transition.               ‘greatness’. Our country and our businesses’
                                                       future depends on our ability to understand that
“You have to understand yourself, your sweet           ordinary people can produce extraordinary results
spot and choose roles that will challenge your         and on accessing and developing our unique kiwi
strengths.”                                            leadership potential across generations, gender
The importance of culture and fit                      and ethnic groups.
Choosing the right company, with the right fit and     Her advice: learn to be yourself and understand
culture is important. People can get into the          the value of what you can contribute.
wrong job, but it doesn’t make them a bad leader.
Campbell contends that we New Zealanders are
                                                       Pleasance Hansen, PH Factor
not by and large comfortable with our Kiwiness
                                                       PH Factor is a management consultancy which
(our ‘ordinariness’ which is often referred to as
                                                       specialises in executive coaching
our lack of sophistication) on the world stage. Yet
                                                       and targeted team facilitation to
history shows us that we are capable of producing
                                                       create top performing
world leaders and ground-breaking ideas for
                                                       organisations. Principal Pleasance
which we don’t give ourselves credit. “I’m
                                                       Hansen believes that with the
incredibly impressed by what’s going on in the
                                                       increasing complexity and
creative, technology and science arenas, for
                                                       accelerating rate of change these
instance. It would be nice to think one day that
                                                       days, organisations need to be
the pride we feel in being Kiwi when we go
                                                       able to draw on every employee’s
overseas, we could feel every day at home.”
                                                       talents. She says what’s needed these days is
Mentoring Becoming Popular                             “leaderful” organisations.
She has witnessed a lot of business leaders
                                                       This was reinforced by a recent discussion with
mentoring others and generously giving time to
                                                       one visionary CEO who considers that leadership
develop the leadership abilities of others. “The
                                                       needs to be as much at the ‘grassroots’ level of an
next generation of leaders will be very different
                                                       organisation, as in the formal power structures.
from those who have gone before. They are less
                                                       “With everyone being accountable, and managing
interested in hierarchy and climbing the ladder
                                                       themselves the best they can, top performance is
because they want to influence and add value
                                                       more likely. It will also make the organisation
from day one. They are bright, curious,
                                                       resilient enough to survive, and even anticipate
challenging and learning agile. They are attracted
                                                       some of the more unpredictable changes that are
to working for organisations whose values align
                                                       coming.” The same visionary CEO believes that
more closely to their own personal values and
                                                       leadership is essentially “about change, and
                                                       making a positive difference. Leadership without
“It’s easier to be a good leader in good times, but    action is not leadership.”
Hansen reiterates this and says, “Leaders speak       Her observation about top CEOs is that they often
up, they challenge the status quo, in the interest    tend to have a highly appreciated personal
of wanting something better.” From her own            assistant working hard behind the scenes to
consultancy experience, she believes one of the       ensure that everything happens effortlessly. They
greatest skills leaders need to master is the         also cultivate a sense of team, rather than being
willingness to have the ‘courageous                   driven solely by their own ego, which is
conversations’.                                       increasingly unsustainable.
By this she means first being honest with yourself    Finally, Hansen believes that great leaders are
about what is happening within the organisation.      willing to step into different possible futures even
And then talking openly with team members             in the absence of evidence that their dreams will
whose behaviours are contrary to the                  be achieved. “Look at Nelson Mandela spending
organisation’s core values and are causing            decades in prison, and holding fast to a dream
problems. An example of this is bullying.             about the liberation of his people. In this country
Hansen believes the best leaders and CEOs have a      we have the example of Kate Shepherd’s
rare combination of humility, and the ability and     determination to bring about votes for women,
willingness to listen. “They are not afraid to give   when no other country had done so. These are
direction, but are also open to others’ ideas. They   timeless examples of great leadership that still
know how to engage their staff and place a high       stand today.”
priority on taking their people with them.”

     4 Components of Transformational                 Useful Website Links
                Leadership                            Kenexa|JRA            www.jra.co.nz
          Professor Bernard Bass                      Sir Peter Blake Trust www.sirpeterblaketrust.org
                                                      PH Factor             www.phfactor.co.nz
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