David White – Building better business: Business leadership
We know that Leadership is a science…meaning that everyone who understands its intention and steps to greatness can be a successful Leader. We are also able to learn the traits of exceptional Leaders, implement their strategies in our organisations, and understand the impact our leadership style is having on the effectiveness of driving the organisation’s vision and sustainability.
Leadership begins, as virtually every book on the subject will tell you, with a Leader having a deep passion for an improved organisational outcome, having a strong sense of commitment to stakeholder expectation, or a belief in a process to improve customer experience.
As organisations grow… so the leadership role evolves. It moves from a directing and hands on approach in the initial set-up or survival stage of the business, to a finely structured activity-based model where individual people focus on meeting defined tasks, and then to individuals and teams working together focused on meeting organisational outcomes and ensuring the organisation’s success and sustainability.
In the first stage of the organisation’s evolution, which we refer to as S-Curve 1, the Leader guides the organisation’s staff and ideals towards success through articulating clearly its vision and purpose, and by directing individual activities to meet desired outcomes.
Decision making at this initial stage of the organisation’s development is often centrally coordinated by the Leader, as he or she guides the organisation towards meeting intended goals and milestones. This initial structure in organisational design is not sustainable in the long term, as it is overly reliant on the Leader’s ability to direct the organisation in each of its functional areas to meet desired outcomes.
To ensure ongoing quality assurance and stakeholder management, the organisation needs to move to the second S-Curve platform where defined workflows, detailed role clarity, and clear outcome expectations are explained, understood, and communicated to all staff members. The organisation’s evolution from S-Curve 1 to S-Curve 2 is critical as it provides essential structure to the organisation, inclusive of its staffing activity and outcome intention. Thus, this evolution helps to ensure ongoing quality delivery service standards are not compromised.
At S-Curve 2 the Leader relooks at each of the functional areas of the organisation, defines individual and team output requirements, ensures effective communication processes, and focuses on mechanisms to meet administration, compliance, and reporting responsibilities. The whole team in this stage begins to understand customers’ needs and expectations, the organisation’s key success factors, and its financial measurements. This understanding helps to ensure organisational measurements and stakeholder commitments are met or exceeded.
In S-Curve 2 the Leader’s role and responsibilities continue to direct values and organisational outcomes, but routine activities now include mentoring staff and teams to help them gain an understanding of the business and “how it works”.
This activity includes building committed teams, creating an organisational culture of ongoing improvement to operational processes, developing positive customer relationships, implementing systems to help coordinate essential quality assurance activities, and defining department and organisational measurements. The leader also ensures effective training and opportunity for staff development and team contributions.
S-Curve 3 is quite different. Here staff and teams migrate from the organisation’s structured routine of activity-based job descriptions and department defined outcomes, to being individual and team resources contributing within their “zones of influence”. Staff focus on the outcome of the organisation’s intention to provide quality services to a specific target market, and to support the organisation’s vision and mission in meeting stakeholders’ expectations. All staff in S-Curve 3 believe in the vision and mission of the organisation and instill within themselves the values and ethics as initially articulated by the Leader in S-Curve 1.
Attraction and retention of suitable staffing is essential for the sustainability of the organisation at each of the S-Curve maturity levels. This, too, is a science a Leader who has experience and understanding in aligning staff purpose and commitment with the organisation’s vision and confidence in meeting intended outcomes, can easily implement.
S-Curve maturity is only possible where staffing and teams are as committed to the values and service levels of the organisation as much as the Leader himself or herself is. S-Curve 3 culture consists of self-driven individuals and teams, who are committed to ongoing quality output improvement of the organisations internal and external customers.
Having attracted like-minded people into the organisation, people who strongly identify with what the company does, are able to add value through their experience and expertise, and who support the contribution the organisation makes to the market and economy. It is the Leader’s role to ensure that staff are correctly inducted into the organisation, and to create a common foundation of values and beliefs. This induction includes providing staff members with a clear understanding of the organisations intention, its purpose and contribution to stakeholders, its cultural and ethical value norms, and defining each person’s area of commitment and how their individual and team attributes contribute towards the combined activity and desired output of the organisation. Each staff member must understand the impact of the organisation meeting stakeholder measurements and must clearly understand and support the organisation’s key success and delivery areas, and support initiatives to ensure the organisation’s success and sustainability.
At S-Curve 3, everyone in the organisation is encouraged to “contribute” and are empowered to make decisions to meet quality assurance standards and stakeholder commitments in their area of expertise. Everyone in the organisation aligns their decision making with organisational culture and norms, and so the directing Leader’s approach changes dramatically from that was needed in the S-Curves 1&2 maturity. People and teams now think and act like the Leader himself or herself and make decisions based on the best interests of the organisation, and its commitment to sustainability and stakeholder measurements.
The directors in organisations at S-Curve 3 work together closely. The business is now bigger (and more complex) than it was at S-Curves 1&2 and requires more sophistication in systems to maintain consistent levels of operation. The Leader’s fundamental responsibility is to ensure governance standards are maintained, that safety and service levels are not compromised, and that stakeholder measurements and expectations are suitably met.
To meet these organisational requirements, a Leader must create an engaged work environment, where people feel they belong, and that their contribution to the organisation’s success is essential. An important element in the evolution of an organisation and in the contribution orientation of its team members is the personal growth of the senior leaders and, in particular, that of the CEO; namely, emotional intelligence, or interpersonal acumen. This growth includes developing an insight into personal style and its impact upon the attitude and behaviour of others – what works and doesn’t work in the enablement of team members to optimise their contribution to enterprise goals.
The Leader’s team of codirectors ensure operational and financial standards are maintained – and are responsible to ensure that organisational sustainability milestones and objectives are met. The bond between the Leader (CEO) and chief financial officer (CFO( at S-Curve 3 become inseparable. The CFO’s role is not only to ensure financial information is collated and administrated effectively, but also to prepare financial information in such a way that it is of value to the CEO and other members of the board to support effective decision making (and comply with good governance norms).
Business leadership principles are not unique to business alone. Sports teams, and in fact all team of people with effective Leaders, will produce better and more sustainable results. To reiterate, leadership is a science all can learn. It is something we practice on a day to day basis, and as long as we align ourselves with people who have common values, beliefs and outcome intentions, our work is made easy.
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