Express Your Feelings in an Intelligent Way

ALLOWING FOR A FEW changes of detail, many executives will no doubt recall a formative experience like this. Late one Friday afternoon an email arrives from someone high up in the organisation. The tone is uncompromising, and the content comes as a complete surprise. The message states that, by Monday morning, a financial analysis and marketing plan is needed for the possible launch of a new product, which another division has been working on. As is usual on such occasions, the email is brief, open to interpretation, and includes no useful contact numbers or additional information about the product’s key specifications or likely manufacturing costs. All plans for the weekend are cancelled, and the next two days are spent locked in the office with a few key members of your team. Though resenting the imposition and the short notice, professionalism prevails, and somehow the job gets done. By Sunday night, the report is ready and, after a final read-through on Monday morning, you send it off to the director concerned. Then nothing happens, until you receive a short message on Friday morning asking you to “meet in my office at 2 pm”. You turn up armed with a copy of the report and any other data you could lay your hands on, expecting a word of thanks and perhaps a few constructive comments. Instead, what follows over the next 25 minutes is a “roasting”. Apparently, the report lacked detail, included incorrect assumptions, omitted a roll-out plan for Asia, and miscalculated the costs for product development. The boss is just getting into the supposed mistakes in your plans for third-party...

Branding Your Leadership Style

THERE ARE VARYING notions about what makes a great leader, but everyone agrees there is no one-size-fits-all formula. Attila the Hun, Napoleon, Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher and Jack Welch are all examples of successful leaders, but as individuals they could hardly be more different. All strong leaders have their unique style – a distinctive brand of leadership. Whether you are leading a country, company, team or project, it is important to develop a leadership style of your own which people will recognise and respond to. Your leadership style does not need to be set in stone. In fact, it can and should change over time. You need a high degree of self-awareness and understanding of your surroundings, so that you can implement strategies which maximise your effectiveness as a leader and minimise behaviour that works against you. Over the years, styles of business leadership have been classified into various categories. Three of the most significant are known as charismatic, transactional and transformational. Consider the key features of each leadership style of identify the one closest to yours, or the one that you respond to best. Charismatic The idea of a charismatic leader dates back to the early 20th century and the writings of Max Weber (1864-1920) in Economy and Society. Since then, different perspectives have been developed, but most share the common belief that a charismatic leader can connect personally with his or her followers and motivate them to action. A charismatic leader has the ability to articulate a vision that touches an emotional chord with an audience. Most organisations have goals but it takes a leader with charisma to...

Contemplate the Battle

IF THERE’S ONE THING most salesmen have, it’s a plausible excuse for not getting the business. “We lost out because of their internal politics”; “They stuck with the current supplier for price reasons”. Chances are the people giving those reasons have great selling skills. So why do they achieve only limited success and never bag the really big clients? Perhaps they lack the tactical thinking and persistence needed to go for the major prize and are under the impression that if you don’t get a quick result you’re wasting your time. For large-scale success, however, it’s important to recognise that selling skills alone are not enough. You also need focus. Effort and energy must be fixed on the right people, at the right time, in the right manner. Hundreds, if not thousands, of books have been written linking military strategies to success in the world of business. Lanchester, Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, Clausewitz – all can now be found in the business library – and the list goes on. There’s even one called Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun (although I don’t recommend it). The overuse of military analogies is a definite risk when talking about business, but a successful sales strategy is based on three battlefield concepts: concentration of firepower; attacking the competitor/enemy at their weakest point; and timely, comprehensive and accurate intelligence. Concentration of firepower In the early 20th century, Frederick Lanchester developed a principle of warfare which said that fighting strength equalled the efficiency of weapons times the square number of troops. In layman’s terms it meant that, with the right firepower, a smaller force could wipe out...

Stay On Top of the Game

EVERY BUSINESS LEADER knows just how precious time can be. As responsibilities increase and technology advances, it can often seem that there are simply never enough hours in the day. Obligations pile up to chair meetings, join conference calls and attend client functions, and all the while there is that ceaseless inbound flood of emails, texts and phone messages expecting urgent attention. Executives, of course, soon learn that having to deal with all these demands is just a function of the modern business world. As a result, they become used to logging on to inflight wifi, addicted to their smartphones, and are experts in the art of the short-term fix. And that can turn out to be a major problem because, in the midst of all the running around and chasing to hit this month’s sales figures or next quarter’s financial targets, it is very easy to take one’s eye off the ball. Unwary leaders repeatedly make the mistake of getting too caught up in the day-to-day aspects of the business. Instead, they should remember one of the first principles of good management is to take a step back and look at the big picture. Being able to see the broader context is a prerequisite for career progress and the long-term viability of a company. And, while it takes time and application to develop the necessary business acumen, a number of tools are available to help. One of the best known is the SWOT model, which provides a basic framework for analysing a company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and how to maximise or counteract them as appropriate. Another...