Take Me To Your LeaderBy Martin Conboy “Take me to your leader” is a science fiction cartoon catch phase, said by an extra-terrestrial alien who has just landed on earth in a flying saucer to the first human it happens to meet. It suggests that every organisation has to have someone in charge. Leadership has been described as “a process of social influence in which a person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task” (Chemers M. (1997) Many organisations struggle with leadership development at all levels. Recently, Deloitte unveiled its Global Human Capital Trends 2015 report, highlighting leadership as a top ten concern for most companies. The success of any outsourcing relationship is dependent on the quality of leadership from both the vendor as well as the client. Unfortunately, too many organisations adopt a one-size fits all approach to leadership development.
What is leadership?Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it. – Dwight D. Eisenhower Leaders help themselves and others to do the right things. They set direction, build an inspiring vision, and create something new. Leadership is about mapping out where you need to go to “win” as a team or an organization; and it is dynamic, exciting, and inspiring. Yet, while leaders set the direction, they must also use management skills to guide their people to the right destination, in a smooth and efficient way. Anyone in any position of authority likes to think they are a good leader. We can all think of examples of good and bad leaders, no matter what the incumbents thought themselves. Each executive, manager, team leader, and supervisor in your organisation most probably has his or her own definition of what leadership is. Everybody has his or her own ideas about what it takes to be a good leader. For some it’s about having a strong vision and the capability to share it and have others support it[i]. For others it’s about empowering people to achieve their best. While some view leadership as the ability to encourage others to be leaders. Leadership is all these things. Fundamentally leaders are people who know how to achieve goals and obtain the necessary support from others to make things happen. Good leaders are necessary for organisations to grow and succeed. Good leaders are inclusive and bring people along with them. Companies and BPO providers invest small fortunes in leadership development programs. Around $US 170 billion is spent globally on corporate training each year with 35% of this being spent on leadership development[ii].
Why many leadership programs failMany leadership programs assume that one size fits all and that the same group of skills or style of leadership is appropriate regardless of strategy, commercial situation and organisational culture[iii]. A BPO service provider may need to develop different styles of leaders depending on the contracts and nature of the clients they need to work with. It may need different leadership styles depending on the industries they target and general economic conditions. Is the organisation in a fast growing and dynamic space requiring leaders brimming with ideas and technical know-how, who are prepared to take risks. Or is the organisation facing sluggish market demand and needs people who can control costs and streamline processes. A good starting point for developing leadership within your organisation may be to come up with your own definition or range of definitions for the term. Define what characteristics are necessary for someone to be a good leader in your environment and at what level within your organisation. Characteristics may include things like honesty, active listening, the ability to delegate, confidence, good communication, be organised and so on. What characteristics you choose and the importance you give to each will depend on the culture and objectives of your organisation.
Are good leaders made or born?There are various debates about whether leaders are born or made or some combination of both. One thing that is fairly certain is that a brilliant leader in one situation does not necessarily perform well in another[iv]. As an employer you must decide which characteristics or skills you can help people develop to become good leaders, specifically within your organisation and what characteristics do they need to bring with them when they are employed. As the BPO industry continues to evolve, diversify and adapting to an ever-changing world and business environment, leadership is becoming increasingly complex and demanding. Meeting that gap is a significant challenge requiring more than a one-size fits all approach. And lastly: “My Religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” The Dalai Lama Kindness is a leadership characteristic that will deliver financial and humanitarian returns beyond imagination. It helps us create work environments that are based on trust and that allow people to express and experience meaning and purpose at work. Kindness is the willingness to open one’s heart to another and to do so as instinct, not as calculation. Kindness is a show of respect for someone, whether you agree with his or her point of view or not. Kindness leads to listening, to curiosity and to the creation of environments at work, home and in the community, where there is an unspoken covenant of honour and of worthiness. It helps us internalize and cultivate an understanding that none of us can survive or achieve personal or organizational success alone.
Focus on happinessWhat about your company makes you happy? What makes you unhappy? By asking two such simple questions, a manager can discover how best to motivate his employees, persuade his customers, and support its shareholders. According to the Dalai Lama, happiness is the highest universal form of motivation. A happy company is a successful company. You are more invested in success when you care about where it comes from. [i] http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/3647-leadership-definition.html [ii] http://www.forbes.com/sites/joshbersin/2014/02/04/the-recovery-arrives-corporate-training-spend-skyrockets/ [iii] http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/leading_in_the_21st_century/why_leadership-development_programs_fail [iv] http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/leading_in_the_21st_century/why_leadership-development_programs_fail