We recently discussed what makes a bad manager and how dangerous they are to an organization.
Poor leadership is an even bigger issue.
Some individuals may present themselves as leaders; unfortunately, at the end of the day, they prove not having what it takes to successfully have others accept their leadership - you cannot impose leadership, it has to be willingly accepted by those led.
What makes a true leader?
First of all, a leader needs a vision.
An actual vision, something that will make their teams and followers get up happily every morning to go and 'get'.
Vision, or mission statement such as the one below don’t help (yes, it is real!):
“The New Ventures Mission is to scout profitable growth opportunities in relationships, both internally and externally, in emerging, mission inclusive markets, and explore new paradigms and then filter and communicate and evangelize the findings."
Do you feel like joining this company after reading this – if you can understand what they are trying to say?
We didn't think so!
Now, you will want to work for a firm that presents itself in a simple and efficient manner:
"Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first."
Simple. Powerful. To the point.
This statement clearly paves the way for a strong leadership:
It says that the company’s priority is its workforce because through their workforce they will be a successful business.
Obviously, a company with such a strong vision cannot be run by managers.
They need leaders.
Which brings us to the topic of the day:
How would you spot a leader? What are the criteria a leader must be able to demonstrate?
There are 10 main criteria you need to look for in a leader (in no particular order):
To paraphrase Voltaire (and incidentally Benjamin Parker!), with great power comes great temptation.
A leader in a key position has a great influence and / or is a decision maker. Many will try to bribe them in a way or another – their decisions may worth millions.
A true leader will never even consider for a minute dealing with companies who try to ‘buy’ their verdicts.
We wrote a lot about good leadership, from understanding the basics of being a leader to the consequences to expect from being a good leader.
We also discussed at length why being a manager is not enough, and the reasons why good managers should do their best to become leaders.
Great leaders are a rare commodity, and good managers are not so frequent either.
The majority are neutral – they’re just there, doing the best they can – which is often not that much:
If they don’t give their associates the gnack to go conquer the world, at least they let them go with their daily routine without bothering them too much.
The real issue is the bad manager.
Before we look in details at what makes a bad boss, let’s ask ourselves what does make a great boss? The answer is easy:
It’s the ability to deliver results by teasing the very best out of their workforce.
Few reports explain why bad bosses are the cause for most employee frustration at work:
For instance, a 2011 Accenture study describes the main reasons why associates leave their jobs:
“The old saying, which is still true, is that people quit bosses, not organizations,” says Robert Sutton, a professor at Stanford University.
As discussed in an earlier article, there have also been clear links drawn between likeable bosses and financial performance.
A 2002 Gallup study looked at 36 companies and found that, as employees’ satisfaction with their jobs increased, so did customer satisfaction, productivity and profit.
Furthermore, employees’ turnover lowered dramatically.
“One implication is that changes in management practices that increase employee satisfaction may increase business-unit outcomes, including profit,” the researchers concluded.
To summarize, a good boss matters.
A bad boss endangers the company.
The main question now is:
Why so many firms (may I dare say ‘the great majority of them’?) are managed at all levels – from CEOs to middle management - by bad bosses?
For many, a leader is by definition a manager.
This is only partially true.
We discussed leadership a lot here, and it is a fact that you can read our articles in a way that they say that a leader is what every manager should be.
This is a fact: most companies would be much more profitable is they were run by leaders rather than managers.
Nevertheless, as many remarked in their comments to our recent ‘You’ve been promoted, few tips to become a leader’ editorial, you don’t need to be a manager to be a leader.
You’ll never find a realistic job description that tells you what is expected from you as a leader.
Being a leader is an attitude; it’s a way to look at life and its challenges.
In many organizations, the real leaders are not among the management team – unfortunately.
One of the finest leader definition you can find comes from Charlene Li, founder of the Altimeter Group, who said that “leadership is defined not by the position you hold, but by the people who willingly follow you”.
The important word here is ‘willingly’.
You do not necessarily follow your boss willingly; in many cases, you follow them because you have no choice, because that’s part of your job, that's what is expected from you no matter what you think.
On the other hand, no one forces you to follow a leader – you do because you believe it is the right thing to do.
So, what is to be a leader?
How do you recognize a leader at first sight?
Here are the attributes that will tell you if you have a leader around you, or if you are true leader material.
Because everyone now understands that it makes business sense, every week press releases are published by hundreds of businesses about their Sustainable Development or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) plan.
Even if many of them demonstrate a will to make a difference, and even if it is exciting to see so many companies actively developing CSR and sustainable development programs, these press releases really are a waste of time.
Simply because no one cares.
It’s not that no one cares about their CSR and sustainable development efforts – we saw in previous articles that more and more employees and customers favor sustainable-conscious companies, especially among the Millennia generation -, it is because the news they publish are beside the point.
Businesses are referring to the things that are wrong through the mediums that are incorrect. Most businesses don’t know how to speak about CSR.
What’s more, a press release is among the least powerful way of sharing this type of info.
Take the example of the employee volunteer programs that are highly popular in these press releases.
Many corporations have an instinctive belief that offering is the “right” thing to do (morally) and it is a vital part of their CSR strategy.
Obviously, sustainable development is for many managers an unchartered territory - they do not know what to do with it and what to say about it.
“Most managers recognize that they don’t know how to communicate about sustainable development; when they do they use quantitative communication methods vs. qualitative,” says Jeffrey Sasch Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.
Rather than quantifying the specific gains, most firms report how much they spent serving food, cleaning parks, painting walls, giving courses and raising cash.
All these are not insignificant actions – they really can make a difference within the community they are servicing.
But they are only… tasks, a means to an end.
They are giving food to those who cannot afford to eat.
They are not fighting poverty.
They never explain the end of their actions – all we know about are the activities they are launching.
It makes you wonder: are they only developing activities ‘to do something,’ or do they have a master plan they don’t communicate about?
We’ve been talking about leadership, branding, sustainable development at length in all our articles, as well as all the various possible combinations you can think of:
Leadership in branding, sustainable leadership, branding CSR – and there is still a lot more to explore!
Let's pause a bit, and try to reflect on leadership.
We discussed leadership numerous times.
What seems to be a consensus between our readers on various platforms is that there are very few leaders and a lot more managers.
You also have those managers who try to become leaders and don’t succeed, and therefore promote the idea that ‘leaders are born to be’ and this is a skill that cannot be acquired.
It is a fact that some are born leaders - great figures of the past are real life examples: since their youngest age they were a driving force.
It is also a fact that anyone can become a leader, as long as they realize that it is not an easy path and it requires continuous hard work.
It is even harder for new managers who just got promoted:
They can easily describe from experience what makes a bad manager, or a try-hard / failing leader because as employees they were under the authority of such bosses.
Yet, many – as soon as they got promoted – make the same mistakes as their former managers.
Very much so as kids who suffered from bad parents become bad parents themselves:
Most of us can only reproduce what we experienced.
Still, this is not necessarily an unavoidable vicious-circle.
Again, as mentioned before, with hard work and running continuous self-analysis to be able to quickly correct mistakes, everyone can become a leader – maybe not as the new Julius Caesar or Gandhi, but still a very acceptable leader who can make an absolute positive difference for their company and environment.
What a newly promoted manager must pay attention to, to succeed and become a true leader?
(The following will apply very well also to seasoned managers at any step of the corporate ladder who want to develop their leadership)
Today, I will play lazy:
I am reproducing in extenso a 2015 FactCompany article that discusses a very important issue related to stress at work, and how Google addresses the issue (of course; who else?!).
I found this article to be too interesting to be lost among the hundreds of amazing articles you can find in the Magazine section of imagine4tomorrow.com.
This article covers all aspects of the very expensive problem - both in numeral and lives -, as I don't believe I could write a better article myself on the subject, here you are...
It's no surprise that job-related stress has serious consequences—both on an individual level and for workplaces as a whole, costing American companies alone an estimated US$300 billion a year.
Research has shown that chronic stress can take a beating on our bodies, affecting everything from our heart rate and blood pressure to our digestive track and immune system. The more stressed we are, according to Sharon Bergquist, professor of medicine at Emory University, the more vulnerable our bodies become to sickness.
And work-related stress in particular has been shown to have a direct connection to poor health. According to the Behavioral Science and Policy Association, particular work stresses like job insecurity, for example, increase the odds of reporting poor health by about 50%, and high work-related demands up the odds of having an illness diagnosed by a doctor by 35%, not to mention long work hours, which have been shown to increase mortality by nearly 20%.
The researchers, who conducted a meta-analysis of 228 studies, each of which looks at workplace stressors on health, urge companies to pay attention to the serious effects on employees and take measures to prevent them. "Policies designed to reduce health costs and improve health outcomes should account for the health effects of the workplace environment," they write.
Companies are taking notice and also getting more creative in the process—trying out unconventional approaches to help employees better manage their stress.
Like a growing number of tech companies, app development agency Appster offers perks like free meals and rides to work in an effort to minimize stress.
The California office has a pet husky named Howl who helps employees blow off steam, and Appster pays for outings so that employees can do fun activities together outside the workplace.
"If people are stressed, you don't want them going home stressed," says co-founder Mark McDonald.
In this article, we are going back to a topic that we discussed at length in previous postings and that was very much commented by our readers:
I’m always surprised (not to say astonished) to note that most executives theoretically acknowledge the importance of employees’ engagement to the success of their brand, and therefore their company.
Nevertheless, beyond great commitments, the yearly odd employees’ satisfaction survey, staff parties and gatherings, and a handful easy-to-implement decisions that never go very far, very little is done.
The reason might be that for employees’ engagement to succeed, companies’ executives need a lot more than great statements; they need a vision – beside the usual ‘company XYZ must be the market leader etc.’ -, and more importantly, they need to roll their sleeves and get their hands dirty by working day in and day out on a long-term plan that impacts associates’ everyday life – not the everyday life they suppose their associates have when seen from their Boardroom, but their actual everyday life.
Most executives believe that employees’ engagement is limited to the interaction with the clientele.
That’s only partially true:
Associates, almost regardless of their duties and position, deal not only with their firm’s clientele, but also with all company’s stakeholders – suppliers, contractors, business partners… just name them!
We mentioned here countless times how Google undeniable success comes from their innovative human resources vision:
Human resources and operation are one so that every single employee – and there were 57,100 of them at the end of 2015 – is treated like an individual, not as an ‘employee’.
That makes all the difference:
Mr. X is not only a security officer and Mrs. Y simply a programmer; they are Mr. X and Mrs. Y who are first and foremost parents, husband and wife, etc. with plenty of life commitments beside their job that need to be recognized and attended to (individuals), so that they can perform to the best of their abilities (employees).
Executives must themselves be committed to their company, and not only to their paycheck and dearest zone of influence / power, to achieve this level of employees’ engagement:
It’s a long and difficult path that requires executives to be devoted to the success of their brand(s) and business.
Look at major corporations most successful in employees’ engagement, besides Google, such as Microsoft, LinkedIn, FedEx and many more:
You will notice that over the past years, they all mutated from their obsolete and inefficient corporate culture – not having a corporate culture is a corporate culture, albeit a poor one – to an engaging people / corporate culture.
In March 2016, the Arizona-based Ethisphere Institute published the list of the ‘World’s Most Ethical Companies’ for the year.
131 companies from 21 countries, representing 45 industries, made the list.
The National Australia Bank, the Rezidor Hotel Group, L’Oréal, Illy Caffè, Marks & Spencer, Cisco, GE, Intel Corp., Levi Strauss & Co., Northern Trust, Kellogg Co., LinkedIn, Pepsi Co., Royal Caribbean Cruises, UPS, Windham Hospitality Worldwide, Microsoft, Ford Motors Co., Colgate-Palmolive Co., Ricoh Co., Delphi Automotive PLC, Marriott International, 3M Co., H & M AB, Accenture, Tata Steel Ltd., Shiseido Co., Ecolab, Starbucks, Capgemini, MasterCard and 100 more were awarded the Most Ethical stamp.
To be considered, companies need to register – at a fee - and abide by the following principles:
“At the heart of the evaluation and selection process for Ethisphere’s World’s Most Ethical Companies is Ethisphere’s proprietary rating system, the corporate Ethics Quotient (EQ). The framework of the EQ is comprised of a series of multiple-choice questions that capture a company’s performance in an objective, consistent and standardized way. The information collected is not intended to cover all aspects of corporate governance, risk, sustainability, social responsibility, compliance or ethics, but rather is a comprehensive sampling of definitive criteria of core competencies.”
The Ethics and Compliance Program represents 35% of the EQ framework, the Corporate Citizenship and Responsibility weights 20%, the Culture of Ethics is another 20%, Governance 15%, and finally Leadership, Innovation and Reputation weights ‘only’10%.
In absence of an official definition of what is an ‘Ethical’ way of running a business, companies rely on third parties such as the Ethisphere Institute… or crown themselves as being ethical.
Go to your local supermarket and you will find hundreds of ethical items, from organic bananas, to sustainable fishing or recycled toilet paper!
Not mentioning your favorite fast food store who donates, discreetly (but still they make sure you know!), to NGOs and other good-will organizations every time you buy from them.
Obviously, if all major international groups work hard to make the Ethisphere’s list, or similar such as FairTrade International, GreenGlobe, Green Business Bureau and so many more, while local and regional companies communicate directly or indirectly on being ‘Ethical’, there must be a reason:
It makes business sense.
We discussed many times the advantages of properly branding your company and how important it is to involve your employees in the process:
In fact, this is the real key to your long-term success.
Many commented that they understand the need of branding, but they question the need to brand ‘strongly’, as the latter option is much more expensive than the former.
Now ask yourself this:
Why do you happily pay Starbucks US$6.96 for a latte in Zurich, US$6.07 in Cancun or US$4.59 in London (among more outrageous prices around the world, see below, as per a March 2016 study from the UK Daily Mail), while you could have the same for not even a quarter of the price for the same quality beverage, but in a non-strongly branded coffee-shop?
Because there are little chances that you’ll even think of going to that local café:
You know and trust Starbucks and that’s where you will go, no matter of what.
Does that answer the question why it is better to invest in a strong brand than being happy with your locally neighborhood label (regardless of the size of your ‘neighborhood’: your street, your city, your region)?
Your local coffee-shop may be serving better quality latte, a greater selection, a more attentive service, you and most customers won’t care:
You want a brand that you know and that the marketing that surrounds and sustains it make you feel good about and therefore ignore the competition.
That’s the power of a ‘strong brand’.
If you’re an attentive reader, you certainly noticed that we mention a lot that you need to ‘think out of the box’ if you want to succeed as a leader, if you want your brand and business to rise above its competitors, and your employees to be dedicated to your company’s growth.
Let’s try something different now:
Let’s think out of the box about the ‘out of the box thinking‘ concept!
Don’t you believe that out of the box thinking has its own limits?
It doesn’t allow us to look at the issue at hands through a different perspective.
It only forces us to take a step back to think at the problem from far away, but through the same lights and angle.
And this is not always enough...