It is irrefutable that the business community faces unique and difficult challenges, as globalisation and technological advancement continue to surge forward. The neo-liberal economic Well of everlasting growth and prosperity, dug by Thatcher and Reagan in the 80s, while perhaps not having run completely dry, is certainly showing itself to be not quite as ‘everlasting’ as they had hoped. Environmental sustainability is making an essential, and long overdue, impact on the way we conceive of and develop our economic interests. The future is dark if we don’t shape our business practices in a way that accords with these challenges. Whether in a small business or multi-national, the obvious staring point is making sure we have good leaders.
Inspirational leaders need time, and trust. A business leader needs a sense of security in their decisions before they can do work that inspires others. And this is best achieved through remuneration packages that reward long term vision rather than short term goals. Further, an element of risk taking needs to be encouraged, without the leader necessarily bearing the consequences of failure personally. Failure is often, although not always, as stepping stone in the journey to success.
An essential element of this is that leaders should be provided with enough time to achieve goals. Too often, organisations underestimate the length of time it takes for a particular vision to disseminate through an organization from the top, and then begin to get the desired results. Head Coach of NRL club Newcastle Rick Stone, having recently lost his job at the club for the second time, was this time given less than one whole season before being axed. The new coach has been told to make the finals next year, and win a premiership within 3… or else. For an organisation that are not only failing on the scoreboard, but would appear to be suffering a fundamental cultural crises, these are brave words. Saying that you want something really badly, doesn’t increase the chances of that thing actually happening. Whereas focus on broader, longer term growth objectives are surely better, even if a little more difficult to articulate.
Finally, an organisation’s personnel need to be structured in a way in which the balance between authority and responsibility is finely tuned. Leaders need to respect that their reports are often leaders too, and need to invest enough faith in them to let them flourish and inspire their own teams. A good leader needs enough empathy to understand exactly what everyone in their team are going through, but enough belief in themselves and their goals to not be distracted by those team members that are not on the same page.
But above all, a truly inspiring leader will make their reports feel safe to be their subordinate, and safe to be a leader themselves. Simon Sinek has a great perspective on this here.