Quality Leadership – What does it take?

So what is it that makes a great leader?

If you do a quick online search some answers that pop up are an ability to delegate, communication, ability to analyse, people skills, confidence, sound judgment, commitment to task, positive attitude, positive behaviour, creativity, intuition and ability to inspire to name a few.

All of these qualities and more are great for a leader to have, some of these are skills that can be learnt over time through experience and practice while others are related to cognitive thinking capacity which is something that is much more difficult to develop.  In fact, some people are of the opinion that cognitive thinking capacity will remain relatively stable once someone reaches early adulthood.  I don’t intend to get into that argument in this piece but I will be touching on some of the leadership qualities that are closely related to cognitive thinking capacity, how they are applied in practice and what the relationship is to a great leader, which can be the difference between total disaster and success for an organisation.

To set the scene let’s look at a fictitious scenario that a leader might have to deal with:

You are the General Manager of a beer brewing company that distributes products across Australia and internationally.  Over the past couple of months there have been issues relating to the quality of some of your products when they reach the consumer, such as off taste, smell and discolouration of the beer. When these issues came to light you removed the offending batch of products from sale, increased quality control measures and implemented a major internal investigation to determine the cause of the bad quality product.  The cause of the issue has yet to be identified however no more bad quality products have been found during the increased quality control process.

Weeks later you are watching the news at home when a breaking story is aired about two related deaths from an unknown cause at a pub that your company is a major supplier to.  A shiver runs down your spine and then your phone rings, with trepidation you take the call.  On the phone is the chief of police in charge of investigating the mysterious deaths and he informs you that it appears both people had been drinking your company’s beer at the time of death and initial tests have shown the beer contained cyanide. The chief tells you he is on route to your house and will arrive in 5 minutes to discuss the crisis with you.

So let’s image you are in the General Manager’s role and now have 4 minutes until the chief of police knocks on your door. What are your first thoughts? How would you handle the crisis? What are the critical things to consider?

A proposition I’ll put to you is that first of all you will need to analyse the situation to understand what is happening, not much of relevance can be achieved without sound analysis to determine the possible causes, implications and knock on effects of the crisis.  Once you’ve analysed the situation and have an understanding of what is happening your mind will then start trying to come up with ideas to solve the issues, this is where your creativity is needed if you are to successfully direct the crisis to the most satisfactory outcome possible.

Now of course to successfully navigate a crisis like this you will need to consider how to apply your analysis and creativity (known as Pure Thinking) in practical terms.  For example who are the people that will be affected by the crisis and the ideas you’ve come up with to solve it, both immediately and into the future?  And what are the things (tasks) that need to be done to achieve the best outcome for your company and all the other people involved?  These are complex issues that we all naturally will think differently about. Careful judgement needs to be used when a leader’s Pure Thinking is practically applied to a critical situation at a moment’s notice.

The Qualities of Leadership

Qualities of Leadership

The balance of Pure Thinking qualities (analysis and creativity) and the Applied Thinking qualities (people and task focus) of a leader along with the judgments they make in a moment of extreme crisis can be the difference between organisations and empires toppling or surviving to fight another day.

Now let’s think about how important it is to have balanced leadership qualities.

What might happen if you have great analysis of the crisis but poor creativity?  Or focus too much on tasks to the detriment of the many people involved?

If this was the case I imagine that your conversation with the chief of police could be catastrophic.  You would be able to understand and articulate what is going on but wouldn’t be able to come up with ideas to control or manage the situation to a positive outcome.  Also, you may overlook or not consider some of the people connected to the crisis even though your plan will impact them both immediately and into the future. Your conversation with the chief may not go well: you would be pushed for a course of action on the spot but struggle to come up with an appropriate plan. In the heat of the moment, you may not consider the various people connected to the crisis, which would have an irretrievably negative impact on many people, including the future of your organisation.

On the other hand, if you have balanced Pure Thinking qualities and can handle the complexity of the situation you could immediately start to navigate the issues to the most positive possible outcome for all involved.

There are people out there that can handle dealing with amazingly complex challenges in a balanced way at a moment’s notice. They might even be working in your organisation already, waiting to be identified and given the right opportunities to develop.

The Qualities of Leadership model and Floreat’s related talent identification methodology Talentfinder has been developed by Floreat Consulting through years of studying successful leaders in large organisations and practical application to identify people with the potential to succeed at the highest levels in a variety of different roles.

Floreat Complexity Challenge – Week 6

Answer to Week 5

B. BtoB’s market is currently Australia but it doesn’t necessarily need to be so. Australia’s reliance on fossil fuels is going to continue at least for the next 15 years, but beyond that, other energy sources will need to be found. It’s likely new sources of energy will come from Africa and Russia and they have large, growing and young populations. They will need energy for powering growing middle classes but you’d also expect political instability as these populations gain more power through higher incomes and start demanding more responsive and transparent government. A strategy that allows BtoB to take advantage of these trends would be wise.

This answer comes closest to the pure thinking at Zone 5. Zone 5 is about anticipating long-term relationships between major systems as they may affect the strategic direction of the organisation.

Week 6 Case Study*

*You can check out the background and our description of the Zones here.  Last week’s challenge is here.

IC342BHaving found a way to match both projects with funding, the Russian and Nigerian energy projects are well underway with billions already invested, and the first returns on investments are expected in the next 12 months. A breaking story that could have a big impact on your business is about a company that’s making big advances in an initiative to commercialise space travel. With a vision to create a unique leisure travel option for the wealthy, all the business needs is an energy source that can keep the cost of flights at reasonable levels.

As the new Managing Director of BtoB, your board is anxious to know your plans for the future of the organisation over the next 20 years.

Challenge question: What entirely different ways of conducting the business might emerge over the coming 10-20 years? 

Floreat Complexity Challenge – Week 5

Answer to Week 4

B. This shows the dangers and opportunities in social media. A small group of disgruntled people are able to make the head of BtoB very nervous. BtoB could be using social media to attract potential investors and funding recipients, and could try a positive campaign. In the future, the business model of BtoB could be disrupted and dictated to because of information becoming more freely available and smaller interest groups able to access it & gain power from it.

At Zone 4, we are looking for evidence of thinking about the “implications” of variables that are evident in the case study, but that play out over a long time-frame. What this means is that we aren’t looking for what causes something to happen, but how those causes play out into the unknown (the future). This response is forward-looking in that it recognises a current trend and extrapolates that trend into the future, linking the trend back to BtoB and its business options.

Week 5 Case Study*

*You can check out the background and our description of the Zones here.  Last week’s challenge is here.

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BtoB has narrowly avoided obliteration through some desperate lobbying by you the GM and by your loyal customers. Under intense media pressure, PTwhy’s Mr Jones Snr steps down and ProSuccess (having secured funding from PTwhy through the final BtoB funding round) continue to gather momentum in the market with their procurement software.

While sourcing funding applications and investors for the second round, you come across a couple of interesting opportunities – both are verified as legitimate. A Russian oil billionaire has got wind of your unique funding model and would like to roll-out the same thing in her own country – focusing on the oil sector. A second opportunity is from a contact working in Nigeria who believes your model could meet with some success there. In Nigeria, there are already investors who are looking for good ideas to support the expansion of the resources sector.

Both the Russian and Nigerian opportunities can’t wait too long for an answer as there are other outfits lining up to get involved.

Challenge question: how might changing interactions between major systems affect the organisation in the long term? 

How to thrive on the expat career rollercoaster

163737_492998090953_6495356_nThe pressure on expats can be immense.

You’ve come to a new country and often a new job with a new network of friends to build and a new house to kit out. Often you can land on your feet but for anyone who chooses to work away from their home country, there’ll be some teething problems.

Naturally, the first months – even years – of expat life are clouded by background anxiety about getting your life back into somewhere near the more comfortable and ordered space you left at home. What you don’t need is to be miserable at work. But from our experience, this happens a lot.

Sometimes the job isn’t quite what was expected. Surviving in the organisation itself can be hard work, let alone culture shock and mountains of admin to fill out.

We’ve been there and we get it (i.e. we’ve made all the mistakes you could make!)

There is plenty of great advice around about surviving and flourishing in expat-dom. What we’re presenting below is a cheat sheet on our 5 best tips for surviving at work as an expat.

Now a warning: we don’t refer to cultural differences, where and how to find friends, how often to call home etc. There is stuff out there and to be honest, it’s fairly obvious after you have some experience living away from home, don’t you think?

This is advice for finding some more enjoyment at work if you find that things there are going off track.

1.       What are you really here for?

Is it for the money? The experience? Because your partner got a job here? To progress your career?

This is number one because you need to get a handle on this. If work is frustrating, there is a need not being fulfilled somewhere. Part of the frustration may actually be from not knowing why we’re doing things.

If you can answer the question above, your tactics to achieve your career purpose become easier to frame and, ultimately, achieve.

2.       Understand your own potential 

Are you aiming to progress to the next level of authority in your organisation?

If you are, think carefully about what that would actually entail in terms of your personal life (will you have one left if you do??!!) as well as the impact on your stress levels. We are all different and some of us will enjoy leadership roles more than others.

Be prepared to confront reality head-on – having a clear understanding of your current leadership potential helps you make sense of your career to date and where you should be heading.

3.       Work on your network across the organisation you work for – not just in your department

Most organisations you would work for as an expat are hierarchical. And the vast majority are pyramid shaped. If you are interested in moving into a role that has more authority, there will be competition. But don’t limit yourself to just your department. Many skills you learn in an organisation can be applied in a different part of that organisation. If you are getting stale working in legal affairs or compliance, a communications role might match your skill set. Think about how what you do could add value to another area of your organisation – there is no doubt it would!

4.       Get to know your direct supervisor or manager

Your direct manager or supervisor can probably be a bigger help than you think. Don’t forget, if they are an expat too, they could be dealing with similar challenges to you. A useful model to use is this one from Systems Leadership, the 3 questions about work. These are questions that all of us – no matter what work we’re doing – need an answer to be engaged at work:

  • What am I expected to do and why?
  • How am I going?
  • What’s my future?

It’s the last question that can be the toughest to answer but can kick-start a very useful conversation with your manager that leads to opportunities that you didn’t think were there.

 5.       Laugh. A lot.

Have fun. There will be a time when you’ll look back on your years working overseas and wish you were still there. Even in the toughest roles, there will be positives – take care of yourself and if you can’t see many positives, talk to someone who knows your situation and can re-frame things for you.

Floreat Consulting Australia can offer individual career development services for expats in most countries. Get in touch today to arrange a Skype call where we can discuss your options. 

The Transition to Leadership Trap

A7874EI think most of you would have heard or said something along these lines before.

“I can’t stand Bill as my Manager! I have no idea how he got the job! Sure, he’s been a great data analyst for years but he just doesn’t know how to lead people. Our team is suffering for it.”

“Michelle was a fantastic leader! We loved coming to work and always exceeded our targets. Since Michelle quit and Penny stepped up into the managers role things have really gone down hill.”

If you’re nodding in agreement chances are you’ve experienced someone being promoted into a leadership position without the appropriate leadership potential and capability.  The impact of someone transitioning to a leadership role without the required capability will have an immediate impact on a team’s productivity and engagement at work. People get jaded very quickly if they see someone being promoted beyond their level of capability (there’s even a saying about this, the “Peter Principle”).

If the new leader’s capability isn’t quickly developed or a decision made to move them to a more appropriate role, the long term negative impact on team culture, employee retention and ultimately the success of the business will be huge.

Just because someone is successful in a skilled role doesn’t mean they’ll automatically succeed in a leadership role. For example an architect may be very technically skilled in design concepts, but are they skilled at the work of leadership? Do they even know what the work of a leader is?

The work of a leader requires new skills to be learned such as assigning tasks, monitoring and reviewing work, coaching, mentoring and confronting behaviour to name a few.  Before an organisation throws someone in the deep end of a leadership role they need ensure they are competent to do the work when they start in the role. It’s not fair to ask someone to be accountable for a whole team’s performance when they haven’t been supported to develop or even practiced the new set of skills needed for the job. It’s not fair on the people they are leading either.

The good news is, it’s possible for people to develop into great leaders over time through an understanding of:

  • leadership potential
  • current capability
  • capability required for a leadership role
  • what work is needed to develop capability to be successful in that role

Our own Transition to Leadership program can help individuals and groups do this. Have you considered the cost to your business if it falls into the Transition to Leadership trap?

Floreat Complexity Challenge – Week 4

Answer to Week 3

B.            This is more of the same – the mining sector is full of these conflicts and the root of it all is money. The pressure to make money is powerful and often clouds people’s judgement even if they’re making a decision that’s clearly wrong. Because of this I think there are problems with how closely the government regulates this sector – the laws around conflicts are too lax. BtoB is taking advantage of shoddy practices & my prediction is it will come back to haunt them.

This response is typical of a Zone 3 ‘pure thinking’ answer. In particular, the respondent talks about the cause and effect relationships going on in the scenario and has suggested the regulatory framework as leading to a more localised problem of BtoB’s corporate behaviour.

Week 4 – Case Study*

*You can check out the background and our description of the Zones here.  Last week’s challenge is here.

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ProSuccess go through to the final stage and, after some internal wrangling on the board, are awarded funding from PTwhy to take forward their procurement idea into full commercialisation.

Things seem to be going well – ProSuccess have managed to secure a major mining client and your focus, as GM of BtoB, is shifting to finding potential applicants for the next funding round.

Then disaster strikes.

An article appears in the Financial Times linking Mr Jones Snr, the head of PTwhy, to various irregular property transactions while head of the Minerals Department. The article also mentions the link between a former BtoB funding applicant – Minescan – and Mr Jones Snr.

Jane Carrow of ProSuccess is furious as unsuccessful funding applicants are gathering support through a negative Facebook campaign to overturn all decisions of BtoB involving PTwhy and Mr Jones Snr with some saying BtoB itself should be shut down.

Jane Carrow has asked for an urgent meeting to hear what you are going to do.

Challenge question: what are the implications in this scenario for BtoB and companies like it?