On the 12th November I took part in the Guardian online discussion on leadership and being a successful manager – the programme sponsored by Harvard Business School. You can find the complete discussion here. Below I will provide some pertinent questions asked and my answers to them. Hope you find it useful and I would love you to share your thoughts in the Comments section below.
Q: What is the biggest leadership challenge you’ve been faced with, and how did you overcome it?
A: One of the hardest leadership challenges I had to face is inspiring the team to work towards and aim to achieve the targets after the previous manager left and there was a void in the team. I had to assume the role of a leader as was the most senior person on the team at the time. It was very challenging indeed due to the fact that people felt demotivated and demoralised by the manager’s departure (he was a very good leader) and a lot of them started skipping work, making up excuses as to why they didn’t hit their targets etc. Moreover, other directors didn’t take close interest in this team apart from the financial results, which added to the sense of frustration. I believe in these complex situations, the most effective way forward is to have a close informal discussion with each team member and discuss their worries and anticipated challenges in detail on a one to one basis.
Q: How do you see the constant change in organizations (and corresponding overwork/burnout) impacting the managers you work with?
A: Some managers I have observed and worked alongside tend to become ‘withdrawn’ sitting at their desks engrossed in their spreadsheets. A lot of them tend to stop talking to the people ‘on the floor’ and only liaise with the board or their own management and concentrate purely on financial stuff and figures. This often results in higher staff turnover and disenchanted feelings within the teams.
Q: What is the most effective way to climb the management ladder?
A: I would say that getting to know as many people within the organisation as possible is one of the keys to success. Including of course a lot of senior directors/managers/board level people. Impressive performance and letting others know of this performance is important as well. Also the sheer number of years within the organisation will help you achieve senior status faster.
Q: I’m interested to find out why the the ‘bottom line culture’ is such a persistent issue?
A: Yes unfortunately the bottom line culture persists across the organisations – the economic downturn hasn’t helped much either. I believe that within the private sector, it is almost impossible to change this mindset concentrating on financial results unless you change the thinking at the very top of the organisation. But again, private sector companies are oriented towards profit making so the bottom line culture stems from this very orientation.