IN today’s global economy, punctuated by fierce competition and rapid changes, the demands on leadership and entrepreneurship are as diverse as they are universal. This, by no means, makes the subject exclusive. On the contrary, it is inclusive and expansive for leadership is found and exercised in every sphere and set up, from the vegetable vendor to the conquering conglomerate and at every level too.
by Simon Tapfumanei
Business leadership simply put entails positively influencing others to attain set goals. Yet in today’s ever changing business world, the demands on business leaders are multi-dimensional. What are the attributes of leadership in business?
It goes without saying that one has to be focused for the realisation of business objectives. Successive motivational speakers or writers, management consultants and advisors of varying backgrounds are uniform in their emphasis and articulation on this facet and with good reason too.
Focus is keeping one’s eyes on the ball (as in various sport disciplines). The concentration of the mind, attention and energy on the objective, when one develops piercing focus, provides the impetus for the journey, the outcome of which is entirely dependent on oneself. Nothing has ever been achieved without it.
Chances of success increase exponentially if one has consuming passion for the chosen field. If one is passionate, then one is driven, keen and excited. Passion is the fuel for the journey and regulates motivation. For, as surely as night follows day, one will be stretched, tested and tempted in business and one draws passion to rise in glorious triumph.
Belief is of inestimable value for success in any sphere and so it is in business. Sport in many ways mirrors business (more on this in subsequent columns). Suffice to say, all successful teams have immutable belief in themselves, notwithstanding prevailing conditions and circumstances. When one believes in what they are doing, there is no reason for ambivalence, uncertainty and ambiguity, in themselves threats to any appreciable success.
Business conditions change and so too should entities which operate under them. This, therefore, takes us to the dimension of versatility. Reference is made here to adapting in changes in the environment or circumstances. The amiable animal, the dinosaur, is extinct because it could not adapt to the environment (my family gets scant consolation from watching Denver the last dinosaur on television!). Your business will suffer the same fate if you are not versatile. Operating environment is subject to change and the business should change in tandem with the conditions.
Customer preferences, competition, liquidity levels, government policies, technology and laws all change. What worked in the 80’s and 90’s will not work in 2015. Changes are sweeping across nations and continents like a tidal wave that we may fail to identify, analyse, interpret and act at our own peril. This calls for business leadership which is responsive to change, whose operations consistently and continuously seek to reinvent themselves. Business operations are always work in progress. Growing, learning, evolving, adapting, and transforming are all necessary processes in business today.
Vision provides direction and a target, without it nothing tangible or substantial can be achieved. There has to be a conception of what one wants to achieve and this opens up the possibilities. Follow through action is consequent upon a vision.
One is always in danger of going nowhere fast, if one is visionless. It all starts with a vision and everything else is premised on it. A well-defined vision is the genesis of greater glory.
Planning is a critically integral part of business leadership and it should be both strategic and tactical. It is wisdom worth noting that failing to plan is planning to fail, as the saying goes. A plan is a guiding framework, without which, our efforts become disjointed, unco-ordinated, jumbled and fragmented. This is inimical to progress. No war plan, survives a battle, military strategists will attest. A battle is only a small part of the whole war, yet it might, nay, will probably need modification because things change at battle level.
Plans often require probable modification. It is not an indictment on the plan, but should be viewed a reality check, making adjustments where necessary, as the situation dictates and in the process making it more relevant. Re-alignment is inescapably important.
Business not only requires persons to be decisive, but demands it as well. Decisions have to be made and boldly so, more often than not. And this often involves sifting through inordinate amounts of information and alternatives. Whatever it takes, make the decision and follow through it. Indecision paralyses operations and condemns one to stagnation, which is destructiveto business.
One has to be perceptive in today’s world. The ability to analyse and interpret all that surrounds us is hugely important and has a bearing on our operations including anticipating changes and future needs of customers.
Possession of fortitude is of substantial value. This refers to persistence in the face of adversity and challenges. Make no mistake, one contends with these in varying measures and frequency without exception. You will be tried, tested, stretched and shaken. How one emerges will be down to one’s tenacity.
Pragmatism should run through the entire spectrum of your operations and being. One has to look at everything realistically.
Frequently ask yourself the practicalities of all you do. Make a clear distinction between the theoretical and the practical and always move with the practical. Take a look at the real and not always the ideal.
In all of this, there is work to be put in. There is no compromise on the work ethic. Even if it takes sleepless nights to get things done, by all means do so, for nothing of substance can be achieved without the attendant hard work. The results are often commensurate with the work. Work hard and work smart!
Only through action does one get results. It is said that the cemetery is full of brilliant ideas, precisely because they did not act on them. What a tragedy, it would be laughable, if it wasn’t so pitiful. Act, act and act.
One has to expeditiously take action to move with or aheadof events and this underlines the need to be swift. With growing competition, it becomes more compelling to quickly move in each and every aspect.
There is much to be said for humility and openness. No one, I repeat, no one knows it all and vanity always stands in the way of progress. Keep your feet on the ground and maintain a sense of perspective, everything is done with others, for others and by others.
Move with the times and be a paragon of modernity. One cannot continue to live in the past, with outdated thinking, old methods and pre-historic orientation. Technology is altering our globe, move in tandem with it. Those who are techno-phobic will be history before their time.
An articulation of issues at hand is absolutely necessary. Messages, information, policies, visions and strategies among others should be conveyed clearly and vividly and the true test in communication is whether the recipient gets and understands the intended messages. At corporate level, personalities such as Mike Ndudzo, Strive Masiyiwa, Adam Molai and Shingi Munyeza are masters of the press and podium.
Crucially, being at the helm of a project or business in the modern era requires one to be entrepreneurial. Focus is predominantly on growth, in terms of revenue, profit, size, value. Unfaltering, pursuit of new products, new markets and new customers is the essence of existence. Project or corporate stewardship, which is simply managing and keeping things under control, is woefully inadequate these days. On this factor alone, one can separate the mediocre from the thriving.
One has to be team player, not in the normal rhetoric, but at the core and in practice. There are hardly any independent achievements and success accrues to compact and competent teams. Successful strategies as research attests, does not account for the differences in performance. These have to be complemented by the right human resources (teams).
A pre-occupation with learning and growth is incontrovertibly necessary in the business world. Witness Modern Management Tool’s pre-occupation with this aspect, for example, the Balanced Scorecards inclusion of this perspective. Learning enables us to acquire skills and competencies hither to absent. Constant change typifies the business landscape. Only through constant learning can one stay abreast of development and the chasing pack. There simply is no alternative.
Innovation is probably the single, most important factor in predicting defining, sustaining and growing business. This dimension is inexpressibly important in today’s highly competitive, dynamic and volatile, business world. With it, endless possibilities open up and without it, stagnation, paralysis and annihilation result.
By no means are these dimensions exhaustive. However, the fore-going are substantially and broadly the timeless and borderless attributes requisite in business today. The approach herein is neither academic nor non-theoretical. The fore-going is based on raining, observation and experience. In our various pursuits, we should make a distinction between the surviving and the thriving, the mediocre from the eminent.
Business leadership, at all its various levels, seeks and requires multi-dimensional personalities now more than ever before. Essentially, for those of us not naturally endowed with some of these attributes, they can be learned and developed over time!