May Day Musings: Leadership, Labour of Love and What Ails Business!

No Thought Leadership

Success in any sphere of business activity assumes many hues, often the result of a combination of factors, including inspirational leadership and a labour of love, not drudgery.

Passion for work goes beyond an eight-hour work week the adoption of which is behind the May Day celebration. It is a day that acknowledges the imperative for work-life balance even if the spirit behind it may be a pipedream in today’s competition-intense world amid a fragile, cyclical economy.

Leaders carry home an enviable compensation package with those helping them succeed having to be content with what may translate to chickenfeed. But lucre does not drive success, a passion for a chosen area of work does.

There can be no grudge against the hefty package leaders draw as long as they deliver by setting a strategic direction, without merely dovetailing their teams. It is only when they are seen to be undeserving of the rewards heaped on them, unable to live up to any build-up of hype, the corporate environment is stripped of the positivity essential for a win-win climate.

Leadership and Inspiration

Leaders must be ready to embrace rich ideas that emanate from resources around them – but if they end up as only followers, they lose traction and make a mockery of their roles.

Visionary Leadership and Innovative Thinking

Inspirational, visionary leadership has consistently found resonance in me and this has often gone beyond the corporate corridors I had been embedded in during the last more than two decades.

While corridors may have changed, the areas of focus for collaborative execution have remained intact – they include pursuit management, thought leadership (within and beyond professional realms) and conceptualisation of win strategies.

Innovative thinking (as opposed to conventional business-as-usual monotony), futuristic solutions, team empowerment and operational excellence are integral components of a success strategy which will fall apart without transformational leadership.

They are values that have defined the phenomenal successes of companies such as Microsoft, Apple, Google and Cisco – all steered by visionary leaders. No copyright theft and no stroke of luck, with much credit for the impact they made on the market going to their first-of-its-kind product innovations and strong leadership.

A failure to demonstrate thought leadership is anomalous to the roles they hold. In my experience, I have found instances aplenty with heads of business units falling short of playing even an individual contributor role.

Put simply, such leaders are only a cost to the company who stack up little in terms of contributing to the corporate bottomline.

Sales leaders and their teams are generally content living in their own cocoon comprising an interlock with subpar partners and seeking to win deals on price, thereby paying little attention to win themes, thought leadership and customer intimacy.

A lack of drive to even carry out a root-cause analysis on bid losses only demonstrates an unwillingness to learn lessons from missteps so they can stay clear of them on future pursuits.

Even when they are done, keeping the debrief within a narrow sales circle and not taking sales-enablement teams into confidence serves no purpose. The result: history repeats itself, again and again!

Labour Day Reflections

EMBA Project – Aligning Strategies with Action Plan

Leadership plays a crucial role in making business scale new heights even amid challenging market constraints. To put that in context, I borrow here a few sentences from the project report, The Complex World of Government Procurement – How Effective Leadership Can Help Bidders Meet Challenges!”, which was a part of my EMBA course (which was on Leadership and Entrepreneurship with the UBI).

“The role of the leadership does not stop at envisioning the future and visualising the big picture, they have a responsibility to align strategies with an action plan to take the challenges head on and chart the path for crystallization of the goals. This way the path to the future is not just mapped but is followed up with creative planning, bold decisions and strong, open communications.”

STEM Inspiration and Business Stalwarts

Inspirational leadership spans multiple levels, from Science and Technology to Business.

Amid the waning interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education, particularly in advanced economies (that is an irony as the First World, with countries such as the U.S. being the hub of innovation and entrepreneurship), Albert Einstein (or Stephen Hawking) will continue to inspire and motivate potential scientists.

Chess: The Brilliance of Fischer

From a personal standpoint, late world chess champion Bobby Fischer is the only one I drew inspiration from. He inspired the world with his brilliance, even eccentricities and the polemics he generated. Fischer made me dream as well – of becoming a world champion. Well, that remained only a dream as the best I could muster was being the Madras Division Champion as a student.

For me, and for millions of chess fans worldwide, Bobby Fischer stands tall, dwarfing all else to rank as the best-ever chess player.

Chess, incidentally, embodies the spirit of strategic planning and thinking ahead, attributes very relevant to the world of business.

Think of inspirational leadership, we get a different set of stalwarts with mass appeal. For instance, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, both from opposite sides of the business spectrum and with divergent personalities, come to mind as leaders with the strength to influence personnel outside of the companies they helped found and steer.

Poor Win Rates and Mediocre Leadership Demotivating for Staff

This cannot be expected from short-sighted leaders who may have the hunger to win but without foresight and the ability to lead by example. Moreover, complacence and a lack of frontline aggression are among factors that inhibit sales amid the rapid growth in addressable markets particularly in the developing world.

A significant takeaway for senior regional leaders is that a poor win rate, lack of a visible pipeline and a failure to be transparent in their communications with broader teams can be demotivating for staff. That can lead to staff turnovers and put the brakes on growth.

The stakes are high in a competitive and challenging landscape, with addressable markets growing fast, as seen in the increasing adoption of the cloud and Artificial Intelligence by both private and public-sector entities.

Businesses that do not want to live in a delusional cuckoo-cuckoo land will embrace strategic processes designed to enable a structured, scientific approach to winning. The onus is on leaders to set the agenda and take it forward.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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