The subject of leadership is a very interesting and uncodified discipline. Science, Medicine, Law and Accountancy have developed to become codified bodies of knowledge with their principles, theories and tools.
In my two decades of work in the banking industry in Nigeria, I have experienced the leadership skills and talents of the industry’s best brains. I have also been privileged to attend numerous courses on the subject of Leadership.
I personally, conclude that Leadership is a scientific-art. Most of the definitions of Leadership and Leader depend on the ideological leaning of the writer and sometimes the most crucial challenges facing the leaders of the day. Some of these definitions are obstructed by the background of the writer, for example a Military Personnel or ex-Military Officer writing on Leadership; a Sports personality writing on the subject , a Politician or political statesman writing on Great leaders and a Public Servant on the same topic.
My background is the business environment and I would love to discuss this subject from that perspective.
What makes a Leader stand out?
1. Vision – Stephen Covey in his books (the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and The Eighth Habit) has clearly demonstrated the importance of vision statement in the success of individuals and Organizations.
2. Trust : Trust is the basic foundation of relationship with other people. It is the duty of every leader to build trust in his team. The absence of trust in a team builds self-destruct.
3. Candor – Jack Welch in his book (Winning) has established the importance of candor in the success of corporate Organizations. Candor means unreserved, honest , or sincere expression : FORTHRIGHTNESS. Other synonyms are BLUNTNESS, HONESTY, OUTSPOKENNESS.
4. Integrity – The collapse of Enron, Arthur Andersen, and the Bernie Maddoff Empire has also brought to the fore the importance of ethics in Corporate Success.
5. Time Management –
Be a QUARANT 2 LEADER
Crisis Managers live here
Pro-active Leaders live here.
3. Not Important/Urgent
4. Not Important/ Not Urgent
Time wasters live here.
Things which matter the most must never be at the mercy of things which matter the least.
When it is time to work, WORK. Avoid distractions.
Plan your day. … and implement the plan.
Manage meetings excellently – Respect peoples time, stick to timelines.
6. Innovation – Ever heard the phrase : “ we do not strive to meet customers expectation , We strive to create unique customer experience.”
The truth is that leaders like Steve Job believe that the customer does not know what is best. Hence they (Steve Job and his team at Apple Computers) create products that take customers to the next experience. I would recommend a detailed study of the works of Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad (especially their book titled : Competing for the future.)
Every successful corporation or business must have a clear “Decision Making Template”. At one of the most successful banks where I worked ( we shall call it Bank A ) the template is as follows:
Every memo on decisions to be taken by Bank A must follow the order above. This template is taught and understood by all members of staff in the bank. The format is so simple (remember the KISS principle) and yet it can accommodate every imaginable complexity; which are attached as appendix, so that the decision making process is not blurred or derailed.
Background : This gives us the historical or conceptual antecedent of the challenge or problem under consideration.
Issue : Here, you clearly identify the problem. The ability to separate the symptoms from the problem is a skill that must be effectively demonstrated here.
Request : Here, you present a solution or group of solutions which best solve the problem.
Justification : Here, you strive to convince management why your solution is the best for the problem.
Approval : You solicit for the approval of your superiors or management.
I recommend that every organization have its own well understood “Decision Making Template”.
Also Organizations must train their employees to master the principles of decision making. I recognize that every profession (or discipline) has its decision making principles and tools. These can be attached as appendix to enable others think outside the box.
I do not foresee the immediate codification of Leadership as a discipline or Profession. I believe those who aspire to the position of Leadership in the business world must immense themselves in the studies on Decision Making. Their effectiveness in this area will definitely make the great difference.