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A leader should be on top of the game



The environment has been changing rapidly in the last decade. To survive in business you now need adept leadership. You need leaders who possess certain skills that will enable them to traverse the ever changing economic terrain.
We are living in a digital age where developments in information technology have changed the way business is done. A delay in adapting to the environment can easily spell doom for hitherto big business.

Leadership is the process of influencing others. As a leader you need to be able to influence your team to follow your vision. The task of a leader is made even more complex because the environment in which he is expected to make decisions is complex, uncertain, very unstable and decisions are mostly of a long-term nature and are affected by the external environment.
An effective leader needs to possess at least the following skills and qualities.

An effective leader should demonstrate a dogged determination to see his vision achieved. He should have such energy to motivate him to achieve his goals. He should therefore be loyal to his vision and this should be seen as he walks the talk. His words and actions should be consistent with each other.
The leader should communicate his vision very convincingly and more often to ensure that every employee buys into the vision and understands what the leader aims to achieve, As he sells his vision or ideas, he should seek for consent rather than be seen to be pushy or coercive.

Effective leaders keep themselves updated of current developments in the environment. They have to constantly scan the environment for opportunities and threats or for any developing trends that require attention. So it’s important that a leader does not only develop skills in his particular area of speciality but has a wider outlook on issues.
A leader should have compassion. He should understand the feelings of his subordinates and the impact of his decisions on their lives. He should therefore think before he acts.
He should also be friendly and sociable. By adopting these qualities, a leader will cultivate a culture of cooperativeness within his team which will raise their performance.
A research carried out at Wharton School, involving more than 20 000 executives, identified other six key skills that leaders should have and use if they have to navigate the changing economic environment effectively.

The six skills are: anticipate, challenge, interpret, decide, align, and learn. The researchers concluded that these factors should not be applied in isolation but together.
A leader should be able to anticipate and detect any ambiguous threats and opportunities on the side-lines of his business. A lot of leaders have lost market share because they did not pay attention to developing threats which initially looked benign but proved later to be dangerous.

Leaders should therefore develop their ability to anticipate change by scanning the environment for signals of change. One can achieve this by constantly talking to customers, suppliers, and other business partners to pick any trends coming. Scenario planning is mostly used to determine future trends that are likely to impact on businesses. Or better still an organisation can carry out research to understand what the customers’ needs are and what products the competition is bringing to the market.
The second factor that was raised from the research is that as a leader you should challenge the status quo. Leaders should regularly challenge their own and others’ assumptions and they should encourage divergent points of view.

They should only make a decision after having looked at the problem from different angles.
The leader should be questioning long standing business assumptions by encouraging debate on these issues even if there might be divergent views. Ask people who are not affected by the decision and get their input.

The leader makes decisions in a complex environment sometimes with inadequate information and some of this information could be conflicting. It’s therefore very critical that a leader is able to interpret this complex and conflicting information.
One should be able to synthesise all the input and recognise certain patterns and seek new insights. When analysing data it’s important to ask other people’s perspectives or you need to have undisturbed reflection on an issue and try to consider different options.

After interpreting the data decision makers may have to make quick tough calls albeit with incomplete information. It’s very important that during the decision making process you consider a number of options to avoid being simplistic in decision making.
The fifth skill raised in the research that leaders need to have is ensuring that they align their goals with other stakeholders.

One should find common ground between other stakeholders and achieve buy-in among stakeholders who might have divergent views. It’s very important you communicate regularly with your stakeholders and keep them in the loop before making decisions. This helps in building trust.
As a leader you need to identify key internal and external stakeholders and identify their interests and power in the issue at hand.

Through discussions you can identify any possible misunderstandings which can raise resistance. Try to get as much support from the stakeholders before implementation of the strategy.
The last skill is that both the leader and the organisation should be open to learning new things. A leader should develop and promote a culture of inquiry and making mistakes and learn from such.

The leader should ensure that there are reviews after projects or after implementing strategies to ensure that there are lessons learnt from these projects. A leader should reward a culture in which inquiry is valued and mistakes are viewed as learning opportunities.
As a leader you need to examine whether you possess and are utilising the above skills. This will ensure the business strategies will be successful.

l Stewart Jakarasi is a business and financial strategist and a lecturer in business strategy (ACCA P3), advanced performance management (P5) and entrepreneurship.
He is the Managing Consultant of Shekina Consulting (Pty) Ltd and provides advisory and guidance on leadership, strategy and execution, corporate governance, preparation of business plans, tender documents and on how to build and sustain high-performing organisations.
For assistance in implementing some of the concepts discussed in these articles please contact him on the following contacts:, call on +266 58881062 or WhatsApp +266 62110062 .

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