The entrepreneur needs to reinvent himself or herself into a strategic leader
|John Adair – Interview for startups.ro – October 17th 2014|
A: Yes, we should think now of leadership as existing on three broad levels: (1) Team leadership, where you are leading a small working group, (2) Operational leadership, where you are leading a significant part of the business and with more than one team leader reporting to you, And (3) Strategic leadership, where you are responsible for leading the whole organization.
To have a good strategic leader is not enough. The secret of business success is to have excellent leadership at all three levels, working in harmony together in the same direction and in the same spirit.
So the old idea of the’ Boss of Bosses’, standing behind the boardroom table on a wooden box in order to look down on others and assert his empty authority of position and power, is dead.
In its place is the effective strategic leader, equipped with the skills, qualities, professional knowledge and values or beliefs. Here is the kind of authority which enables others to accept him or her as their natural leader. And the test is that he gets the best out of those who work with him. Here fear is no more ; what reigns is mutual respect.
A: Anyone truly filling the generic role of leader-at all three levels I have just mentioned – will be expect to show sustained enthusiasm for the task, the integrity that creates trust, toughness and willingness to demand excellence, an inherent sense of justice or what the English call fair play, humanity or kindness, and an intellectual and personal humility.
This list is meant to be indicative, not complete. What would you want to add to it?
A: There is certainly a difference of situation, especially in the early days. An entrepreneurial leader is an initiator, bringing a new business into existence and then enabling it to grow. The situation is often very fluid, with few rules.
The entrepreneur doesn’t get very far without becoming a team leader, often of a creative kind. A very leader-centred style of management sometimes evolves, with the entrepreneur person or partners taking all the decisions often down to the smallest details.
All that is fine in the early days. With success comes growth in size and volume of business, and that puts an increasing strain on the model I have sketched above. What works the creative phase of a start up, as order struggles with chaos, becomes less workable when, for example, some organizational systems and operational procedures have to be put in place . If the entrepreneur is unwilling or unable to change this can lead to considerable friction.
If an old -style manager is brought in to run the business, then all too often that means the business is on a downward path to losing its creativity or flair. In place of freedom and the ability to be agile and respond quickly to opportunities or problems, everything slows down and the best people – the highly motivated and creative ones- begin to drift away. The organization is now dripping out its life blood.
Is there a solution? Yes, if they want to stay involved the entrepreneur needs to reinvent himself or herself into a strategic leader. Then they can lead in the second great challenge: enabling the business to fulfill its full potential for the common good.
Or, if that is not possible, cut your losses and find a strategic leader who knows how to lead an organization in such a way that it does not lose its creative soul. See my ‘Leadership for Innovation’ for more ideas.
A: The true leader is ‘a leader of leaders’ They bring out leadership and the other relevant other gifts in others .
One of the seven functions of a strategic leader, which I shall be talking about during my seminar in Bucharest next month, is “Identifying and developing today’s and tomorrow’s leaders.
And my book ‘How To Grow Leaders’ which I shall be launching in its Romanian edition that same day, tells CEOs and HR directors what practical steps they need to take to make it happen.
A: It will not happen of its own accord. Your organization needs to introduce an effective leadership development program based upon my work, aimed primarily at the younger people. For they tend to be – by virtue of being young – positive in spirit, forward-looking and optimistic. They are the future of your business, so you neglect them at your peril.
When it comes to training young leaders I know that my approach works. The British Armed Services have based their leadership development on my work for 50 years and are still as committed as ever. In 1983, when Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) wanted to transform themselves from being a loss- making, conservative and bureaucratic institution into a dynamic and profitable company, they turned to me . My job was to help them replace their old-style managers with business leaders. And that is what we did. Five years later ICI was the first British company to make a billion pound profit.
If the President of Romania after the election in early November sought my advice I would say this. Why not develop a national strategy for leadership development based on the principles in my book ‘How To Grow Leaders’, now available in Romanian. You will be the first President in the world to do that– but that is what is called being an entrepreneurial President!
In my professional opinion it could be done, and it could have a transformational effect on every aspect of life in Romania. But there is a necessary condition: the President of Romania does have to be personally committed to it and to lead from the front. When I say committed, of course, I mean committed not wearing his party political hat, but as the national head of Romania.