Three industry leaders share what it takes to create a successful work culture.
Being a good leader is no easy feat. There are so many facets to leadership, so many skills to juggle. An effective leader must be able to mentor, delegate, manage, train, solve problems, plan, strategise, organise departments, manoeuvre politically, build and maintain relationships, manage crisis, supervise, collaborate, identify and nurture talent, and challenge his or her workforce. A leader must display traits such as efficiency, focus, a sense of authority, inclusion, empowerment, self-awareness, equality, decisiveness, enthusiasm, patience, endurance, creativity, and fostering loyalty. If any of these is lacking, the harmony of the workplace could tilt out of balance
“A good business leader needs to set the vision for the business and then create the environment for his/her teams to be successful,” said Robin Lokerman, group president, MCI Group. “This means empowering people and removing hurdles that get in the way of creating value for customers. [He or she needs skills of] problem solving, decision making, and the ability to quickly access business issues and bring new insights.”
“Some of the most important traits of a good business leader are those who lead by example,” said Natalie Simmons, global general manager for ci events. “[They must be] able to clearly articulate their visions and direction of the business so as to take everyone on the journey with them, show empathy, be honest and act with integrity, are able to make the hard decisions, and also to take accountability for both the right and wrong decisions and most importantly be accessible to everyone within the business.”
Vikram Sardeshpande, managing director Singapore Coffee for a European-based multinational commodities company, puts it more succinctly. “I believe in the simple ‘3C’ concept to run a business: Communicate, Collaborate, and Cultivate.”
Much has been written about the various styles of leadership, from the autocratic boss (firmly anchored by the principle “it’s my way or the highway”) to the transformational, from the transactional to the visionary. Whatever style of leader you want to be, the key to success in the workplace is to motivate staff and build loyalty.
According to Lokerman, a good leader must “keep focus in the organisation. It is all about the customer journey with your company and how you can create competitive advantage. Your talent is the key to developing and delivering value, so creating a positive place to work is important.” Leaders also need to be fair and transparent, he said, which is critical to keeping employees motivated. “Staff need to fully understand the vision and strategy of the business. Reward them fairly and in line with creating customer and shareholder value,” Lokerman said. “Key managers and directors need to be empowered and have control over their business units.”
Sardeshpande believes you must “be decisive and make sure you build strong teams and invest in Human Resources. You cannot do it alone!” He also noted that leaders are being observed continuously and there are multiple interpretations people make from what they perceive, so small things go a long way. “Be generous in your appreciation of good work and objectively critical if things go wrong.”
Beyond all this, leaders need to ensure that there is loyalty among the workforce, and MCI’s Lockerman suggests open communication and regular team-building activities. Furthermore, he said, “people want to grow, so provide growth and learning opportunities. People do not leave companies, but they leave bosses, so if there are bad managers in your organisation, then remove them or train them.”
At ci events, the tagline is “Inspire.” “I often give my team a personal insight into what inspires me as I think when people can connect with each other on a more human level we motivate one another naturally,” Simmons said. “We also celebrate our wins and losses together and have an internal employee-recognition programme to ensure that everyone can nominate and be nominated by peers across the business.” The company has a philosophy called Brightness of Future (it is practiced across all of Flight Centre Travel Group, which owns ci events), which asserts that every employee should be able to build a multifaceted career within the business, that anything is possible and if a team member wants to move and work in its New York City office, for example, the company can help to make that happen.
“A leader is evaluated on how he or she reacts to successes and failures,” Sardeshpande said. “I follow a simple philosophy that when it is a failure, it is ‘we’ and when it is crediting the success it is ‘they’ and this helps to build loyalty among staff as they feel that we are in this together and want to perform for the team leader.”