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Executive Management and Leadership

An evergreen topic of interest to professionals in the corporate world and students of business schools alike, the mere thought of leadership conjures up several images.  At the same time, how many times have we heard from folks that Mr. X is a great leader but a really bad human being? Based on several years of experience and intense conversations from teams on the values that would help them rank a corporate leader highly based on his or her personal traits, here’s my take:

Simplicity – The best leaders I have worked with have always kept things simple. For example, in one of my first jobs, the CEO said something simple that set me off on the right path from day one of my career: “Will you let your job drive you or will you drive your job?”

When you click on a link and get dumped into 404 limbo, that’s not good. But when a link’s completely dead, that’s even worse.

Calling a number on a company’s website and reaching a retiree in Boise is unfortunate. Hearing “The number you have dialed has been disconnected or is no longer in service,” may suddenly classify your prospect or customer as “former.”
 

how_404_errors_and_other_little_mistakes_impact_businessMinor to Major

Years ago, I was waiting in the queue at the airport lounge reception to get my card swiped for entry. The gentleman in front of me forgot his PIN and had to call up his bank. They promised him a quick dispatch of the replacement PIN within seven working days via post (not very quick these days). The exasperated customer wondered why they could not send to him in a digital form via phone or email – after all, he just needed information, not a physical product. It is precisely moments like these that set the context for leading in the digital world of today.

I am a domino. It’s likely that you are, too. But whether you’re propped at the front of the line, in the middle, or way at the back will depend upon your current employment.

It is, as the pundits like to say, the price of progress: as technology advances, work changes and, often, that work goes away. It’s happened in manufacturing as robots replaced human workers (though offshoring didn’t help), and it’s moving on to white collar jobs where artificial intelligence is assuming chores that once were considered “safe for human assumption.”
 

Jim Collins and his team of researchers spent five years exploring what made companies go from good to great. And through his work, many companies have been positively impacted. But, how do you go from a good leader to a great one?

Remember during your employee orientation when your company reviewed their Code of Ethics with you? You know, the short list of basic ethical guidelines to follow when conducting business on behalf of the corporation? I didn’t think so! 

Most corporations have Codes of Ethics or Ethical Conduct hidden on their websites, or on their internal intranet buried within their “Values” statements, or somewhere within their Employee Handbooks. But, they rarely call attention to them. Corporations figure their new hires and current associates all have a ‘moral compass’ or they would not have been hired in the first place. However, events in today’s business world demonstrate how a simple slip in ethical conduct can doom an entire company.

Henry Mintzberg took on Harvard Business School’s teaching methodologies, in his widely acclaimed book Managers Not MBAs, by arguing that “conventional MBA classrooms overemphasize the science of management while ignoring its art.” In acknowledgement, management in this post is considered an ever evolving set of practices shaped by the cultural environment one finds him or herself in, where the “art of management” is to be practiced.

BlueSteps recently hosted an #ExecCareer Chat on the topic of "Becoming a Better Leader" and leadership development, featuring Catherine Bell, from BluEra, Mike Morrow, from TRANSEARCH, and Daniel Rezende, from Dasein Executive Search.

Some of the questions asked included:

Office politics is an unfortunate workplace reality. It’s a phenomenon that leads us to behave in ways that might not qualify as totally ethical, and it encourages certain co-workers to indulge their inner Faust.

I’m guilty of it to some degree. I calculate people’s likely responses to business proposals in advance, line up allies, and prepare responses and rebuttals for those who are sure to disagree. It’s self-preservational. But it’s directly related to accomplishing what I think is right for the company, regardless of whether it’s right for a particular colleague.

The irony of this digitally connected world of ours is that devices have installed distances between people who work in proximity and shortened distances between people who work remotely. How often have we had neighbors send us emails, WhatsApp messages or text messages, only for an annoying outburst from a third colleague who enters the exchange wondering why people don’t just talk to each other. At the same time, aided by tools such as telepresence and video conferences, colleagues who work remotely no longer perceive the same distance that our predecessors experienced.

I have dealt with colleagues who work remotely for more than 16 years. Based on my own experience, here are a few tips on leading colleagues who work remotely: