One of the fastest growing trends in business are leadership development programs. Because organizations understand how important the role of their managers plays in the success of their objectives, they are sparing no expense to sending their key members to conferences around the world to listen to some of the best experts on leadership.
Leading a team of employees to deliver great work sounds simple and straight-forward. However, many companies are still struggling with this which is why many hire a coach or a business consultant. Even if a business firm has developed a great strategy and prepared a detailed action plan, unless the people in the firm are motivated to work with commitment to implement the plan on the ground, all the great preliminaries will remain just paper documents. Leadership is the ability to influence other people to act in desired ways.
Leadership in Action
“Leaders achieve the results they want by creating a certain organizational culture” suggests business coach Chris Adams of the Coaching Institute. “People can go after the same results in different ways and it is the particular ways a group chooses that characterizes its culture. Organizational culture can result from leaders with a clear vision working deliberately to create it, or it can evolve gradually as leaders come and go in an organization.”
An organization’s culture is typically demonstrated in leadership behavior, in the approaches it adopts towards different aspects of running the business. Some examples will serve to illustrate culture in operation:
- Some businesses create an environment that encourages creativity and innovation – while others prefer a conservative approach.
- Businesses will have specific policies on how to treat their employees. Some see them as valuable resources and seek to continuously enhance their capabilities and performance levels. Others are more focused on discipline and might use fear as a tool to motivate employees.
- The way a business treats its customers is another culture-related issue. Customer-focused businesses will be organized to identify changing customer requirements and meeting these on a continuing basis. Others might adopt an approach of “take it or leave it” or something along those lines.
- Then there is the issue of care for environment and public interest. Traditionally, businesses placed their focus on profits, and considered other issues as peripheral. Things are changing these days with more and more companies trying to project a caring image.
Google has been one of the spectacular business success stories of recent times. A few examples of their approach can be used as a case study:
- Google has shown what customer-focus really means. It is constantly seeking to provide the best customer experience in all the services it provides to users, such as highly relevant search results (including local results).
- Search for excellence is one major feature of Google operations with the company engaging the best professionals and providing them an environment to produce great products.
- Google believes that one can make money without doing evil. It clearly distinguishes paid and organic results in search results pages. It also displays advertisements only on pages that are relevant to the theme of the advertisement.
It is the leadership of Google’s founders, their strong beliefs in certain values, which led to such a culture, and the culture has demonstrated its business validity through the huge success it led to. The founders were quite clear about what they wanted to do, and the approach they will use to do it, even before Google came into being.
Essentially, leadership involves identifying the right course of action in a particular context and influencing the people concerned, both employees and outsiders, to act along this course. Leadership rarely requires a charismatic personality or great oratory skills. Rather, the ability to explain situations in a way that listeners can understand and to show convincingly how specific actions will be beneficial to all is more effective in business leadership.
Because of the critical importance of leadership for business success, all the topics from team leadership to corporate leadership (and beyond to helping other businesses to succeed through mentoring) have been the subject of much research, study and discussion. In particular, different styles of leadership and their effectiveness in different situations have been studied in great detail. Leadership courses and coaching programs have proliferated in the market.
There are also several resources on the Web that explain what leadership involves and why it is important. These include the articles at the websites of government small business support agencies, different organizations offering leadership development courses and programs, and business information resources. A review of these resources can help small businesspersons and others to get a good idea of the issues involved.
Such an awareness of the basic issues and approaches can help them select the right courses and coaching that are most likely to meet their needs.
As discussed in this article, leadership is typically demonstrated in the form of organizational culture. An organization’s culture determines how it goes about its business, and how it treats its employees, customers, the public and environmental issues, for example. The culture can be deliberately created by visionary leaders or evolve in the course of the organization’s existence and development.