Leadership drives growth and transformation. Every organisation’s survival or demise is dependent on its leadership capacity. Unfortunately, in many organisations it remains the single biggest need as many managers are yet to make the swift transition from thinking like custodians of the order to taking those audacious risks that distort the norm and create incremental value for the company. In short, leaders are in need!

John P. Kotter is a Professor of Leadership and Change Management at the Harvard Business School. He defines leadership as “the development of visions and strategies, the alignment of the relevant persons behind the vision and the empowerment of them to make the vision happen despite obstacles.” Dr. Kotter’s proposition takes into account five crucial leadership competencies that, when acquired, can engineer phenomenal transformation to the status quo and help lift the company from here to there.

1. Understand the Bigger Picture

It is often the case that managers at the operational and tactical levels hardly ever understand the strategic direction of the company. This is often the result of a lack of clarity in the company’s mission, vision and values; top leaders not consistently communicating the bigger picture or the many at the tactical and operational levels not making serious efforts to know. In one financial institution I facilitated a training session on leadership for, it was puzzling to see mid-level managers fumbling to state the company’s mission and vision statements.

Leaders inspire others only when they are driven by a clear sense of purpose: what we call the bigger picture! Purpose is the foundation for any take off. In other words, breakthrough strategies and transformational initiatives that create incremental value for companies are often inspired by a clear understanding of where the company is and where it intends to go. The leaders of tomorrow will be those driven by boundless energy and passion, whose source is a clear sense of purpose of where they want to take their lives and organisations to.

2. Partner People
People make things happen. John C. Maxwell, a revered leadership expert contends that, “Vision is received through one person but fulfilled through the efforts of many.” Apart from knowing where they are going to, leaders bring along persons they want to go along with and invest in their training and development. The story of Apple’s turnaround has often focused on Steve Jobs as that one charismatic leader whose ideals were bigger than the company. A design engineer by name Steve Wozniak, Jobs’ longtime business partner, equally lent significant contribution to what Apple has become today. The partnership of Keli Gadzekpo, Ken Ofori-Atta and James Akpo in building Ghana’s first investment banking firm in the dark days of the 1990’s when Ghana was still under a dictatorial regime speaks of the audacity and resilience of a people that have bought into a clear purpose and vision. Leadership is a people-centered discipline, where it is the priority of the leader to adds value to the people he works with. The overarching purpose of leadership is to shape people into leaders. At the time of your exit, a majority of your followers should have been seen to be manifesting leadership traits. This is the challenge of true leadership.

3. Do not micromanage
Largely, HR is the keeper of culture; they jealously protect the corporate order. This has its disadvantages. It gradually breeds a culture of excessive caution and restrained thinking. HR leaders are advised to empower their people. They must
create space for them to make mistakes but also learn from them. They must avoid excessive micromanaging, which limits people’s potential and instead, allow them to experiment with innovative ideas, some of whom could be deployed as
projects to create more value. Even when micromanaging, we advise that managers communicate to their team members the fact that they would have to look over their shoulders in the interim as they build proficiency on the job and that
beyond the point of mastery, they can generate new ideas to add value.

4. Fix Problems
The significance of leadership is that it fixes problems. Even more important is the fact that leaders view problems as opportunities and convert them into generating multiple revenue streams. Problems define leaders. Satoru Iwata, former president of Nintendo is widely credited for disrupting the computer gaming industry by creating new markets which hitherto did not exist. But he had no option! As a matter of fact, that was the only way his company could survive the fierce competition posed by industry rivals: Sony and Microsoft. One of the most interesting definitions I ever came across about money is this: “money is a reward for solving a problem.” With this view in mind, leaders find innovative approaches to fix problems so as to generate more revenue for their businesses.

5. Continuous learning and development
Abraham Lincoln, 16th president of the United States of America is famed for saying: “I will prepare and wait, for my time shall surely come.” We stop learning at our own detriment. The most innovative and fast-growing organisations are ones that create learning cultures to enhance knowledge transfer and creativity. With that foundation, they are able to do more even with less. In crunch moments as we currently have, a sharp ability to de-learn and re-learn will prove immensely helpful.

Leadership in my opinion is a lifelong learning process. But it begins with a decision. Real leaders do not need positions to function. They still are able to impact the bottom line, regardless where they are placed. The secret is that they learn very early in life that leadership flows from the people to the leader and the only way to have it is to build enduring relationships with people.

By: David Mills

HR Head, Petrosol Ghana