So you’re a new leader, what next? How you begin your leadership career is critical to your long-term success as a leader. If you’ve the right common sense, life skills and technical knowledge (right qualifications) to set the right tone, you will have the right foundation to last a lifetime. If you don’t, you are highly likely to fail in delivering your company to profitability.
What do you think is the number one cause of business failure? Why are many businesses failing? The number one thing is not something you may think. In 1997, I was one of the students in one of the private secondary schools in Hoima which was under the leadership of James E.M., a tall, light skinned man who always preferred tight blue jeans. As the Head master or rather the CEO of a 200 plus pupil school, James was fond of himself. His typical day involved moving around the school, addressing the student assembly and later teaching his favourite subject, maths, to the advanced level classes.
On 21 April 1998, about 90 students went to James’ office and said they wanted to talk. They just wanted explanations why the promised Saturday menu was not being served. but James refused to meet them to explain. They shouted asking him to explain, to no avail. They asked him to come out of office, he refused.
In the end, the unthinkable happened. They rioted, destroying all the furniture by setting the office block on fire. It was so bad that the riot messed up everything that the school had to be closed the following day. It was costly and very abrupt.
Instances like these prove a point: “there is no such a thing as second chance in leadership. You miss it once, and it’s all gone.” As they say, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
Daniel Goleman in his famous “What Makes a Leader” article in the January 2004 issue of the Harvard Business Review, explains that “most effective leaders are alike in one crucial way: They all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence.” He adds: “It’s not that IQ and technical skills are irrelevant. They do matter, but mainly as “threshold capabilities”; that is, they are entry-level requirements for executive positions. “But my research, along with other recent studies, clearly shows that emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership. Without it, a person can have the best training in the world, an incisive, analytical mind, and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he still won’t make a great leader.” Daniel identifies five components of emotional intelligence that make top leaders. These are:
Self awareness – the ability to recognise and understand your moods, emotions and drives, as well as their effect on others. Effective leaders are self-aware; have self-confidence, make realistic assessment of themselves and others and use self-depreciating sense of humour.
Self-regulation – the ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods; the propensity to suspend judgement – to think before acting. This is reflected by trustworthiness and integrity, comfort with ambiguity and openness to change
Motivation – a passion to work for reasons that go beyond money or status. A propensity to pursue goals with energy and persistent. Motivated people have strong drive to achieve, optimism, even in the face of failure and high commitment to the organisation
Empathy, the ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people. The skill in treating people according to their emotional reactions. The hallmarks for empathy as identified by Goleman are expertise in building and retaining talent, cross-cultural sensitivity and service to clients and customers.
Social skill – proficiency in managing relationships and building networks. An ability to find common ground and build rapport. Successful leaders have ability to effectively lead change, are persuasive and have expertise in building and leading teams.
True, effective leaders have more than mere technical skills and qualifications; after all, leadership is the art of “influencing people to get things done to a standard and quality above their norm. And doing it willingly”, (Brian O’Neil).
Leadership entails forming vision, energising people, communicating, charisma and competence, among others. Unfortunately, many managers lack charisma, are deceitful and are bad communicators. Majority of failed companies are a result of poor communication due to poor leadership and tone at the top. In the case of PSS of Hoima above, the Headmaster’s failure to communicate to pupils drove them into excessive frustration with the school’s management and had to break into offices and destroy everything. Similarly, in many companies, staff get disgruntled with management and instead prefer to just come and appear for work and go, to just collect the monthly check. This is just because the company has no leader to communicate to everyone and offer each an audience to voice out their concerns. Are you listening well enough? Are your companies communication channels open well enough to enable frank communication cross-company-wide. Because most times the cause of corporate failure, is poor communication across the board.
The thing is, most managers think by being highly qualified, they automatically become great leaders. This is not so. Leadership is more than managing as it entails the following:
Helping people to achieve a better life
Having a clear vision and communicating it. Leaders have vision; they are not just for themselves, they set a common goal and give direction to their followers
Social skill. As Goleman explains leaders are proficient in managing relationships and building networks. People are most willing to follow those who know what they are doing.
In difficult positions, leadership flows to the person who knows what to do in a given situation. Now this cannot be true for a typical manager who is always bent on frustrating others and failing any opportunity for them to shine. Most managers in Uganda are not leaders because they never admit failing and asking for help.
I remain yours Mustapha B Mugisa, Your Success Partner.