Supporting followers can be the key to successful leadership styles
20 June 2014
Business leaders at world congress told to take pride in service to others
Business leaders at the 24th world congress on total quality and leadership have been told that leadership is not really about them. According to Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas in his special address to the Institute of Directors of India's event held this year in the state of Kerala “it is about people without whom we might achieve very little. It is about those who look to us for help and support.”
The author of Winning Companies; Winning People stresses: “Leadership is about relationships rather than attributes. It is about service to others, service to customers, service to employees and service to business partners.”
The professor's investigations reveal that “Leadership can also be about service to a cause. People will go the extra mile when they believe in a cause. Turn your aspirations into a cause. Sharing a compelling vision and a worthwhile purpose can attract followers.”
In recent reports Prof. Coulson-Thomas suggests that greater emphasis be put upon the provision of better support, particularly of those in demanding front-line roles: “The 'new leadership' I advocate is more about helping people and simultaneously delivering multiple benefits for people, organisations and the planet. Confident leaders put much effort into developing and supporting others. Their most lasting legacy can be the high performance organisations and teams they build.”
Coulson-Thomas disputes suggestions from critics of competitive capitalism that business leadership is less commendable than thought leadership, or academic, cultural or moral leadership:
“Competition that leads to new offerings, options and choices can be highly beneficial. Be proud to be a business leader. When properly regulated, there is competition and people have a choice, markets can be intrinsically fair. Confident leaders welcome competition that spurs improvement.
In contrast, protectionism, corruption and favouritism are formidable barriers to entry and progress. Business leaders should champion fair play and encourage innovation.”
In relation to India, Prof. Coulson-Thomas asked: “How will India's general election and a new Government with a majority impact upon your company and its customers? How should you respond? What changes or developments would help you to become more competitive? Could you collaborate to help improve infrastructure or transform public services?”
According to Coulson-Thomas: “Leadership is about focus and relevance rather than being clever. Very intelligent people sometimes see so many angles to problems that they procrastinate. Windows of opportunity can be missed as a result of excessive analysis. There are times when decisiveness and courage are required.”
However he continues “Leaders who fail to listen are dangerous. Even the best leaders sometimes make the wrong call. Boards need to provide challenge. Flexibility is different from being rudderless. There may be more than one route to a destination. Seeking a different one can be a sign of strength. Confident people learn from mistakes. They look to limit damage and find better alternatives. Strong leaders welcome honest feedback and objective advice.”
According to Coulson-Thomas: “Being an effective custodian of a vision can require re-engagement with stakeholders, a re-assessment of aims and the re-establishment of relevance. Be prepared to question current priorities, corporate practices, prevailing attitudes, cherished beliefs, familiar approaches, shared assumptions and widely held views. Reinvention can be the key to longevity. Good business leaders maximise future chances by listening, challenging and staying close to customers. They keep flames alive and pass them to the next generation.”
Self-aware leaders know when to hand over to a successor. Coulson-Thomas suggests “Some people harm their reputations by staying beyond their 'use by' date. They loose the plot or run out of steam. Others stay current and vital. They question, discuss and learn. Leaders who rest upon their laurels take a great risk. Complacency is the enemy of continued competitiveness.”
Coulson-Thomas believes “Ultimately fulfilment as a leader comes from within, the peace of mind that can result from having few regrets, and the satisfaction that can come from the knowledge that leadership positions have been used to make the world a better place.”
Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas, a member of the business school team at the University of Greenwich holds a portfolio of board, public and academic appointments. He has helped companies in over 40 countries to improve board and corporate performance. Author of over 40 books and reports he has held professorial appointments in Europe, North and South America, the Middle East, India and China. Colin was educated at the LSE, the London Business School and the Universities of Aston, Chicago and Southern California. A fellow of seven chartered bodies he secured first place prizes in the final examinations of three professions.
Prof. Coulson-Thomas' special address on the challenges and opportunities of leadership was delivered on Friday, 23rd May 2014 at the 24th World Congress on Total Quality and Leadership held at the Hotel Taj Vivanta, Trivandrum, Kerala, India. He also gave a short talk on the role of the board in relation to quality. Colin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. His latest publications are available from www.policypublications.com.
Submitted by Prof Colin Coulson-Thomas – CMI Ambassador