Leadership in Brief
Leadership is one of the most discussed and written-about business topics. There are thousands of leadership courses claiming to transform your business, even your life. These often amount to plenty of pontificating, motherhood statements and conflicting advice - somewhat ironic when businesses need practical solutions to deal with today's economic woes. Below are three key approaches, each of them simple to understand but difficult to pull off. But then who said leadership is easy?
Every business leader wants answers today. But quick fixes must be separated from strategy. Quick fixes are about getting existing assets - people, money, processes - to work better, faster and creatively to win orders. Plenty of leadership scope there, but separate fast-track improvements from cutting costs. Cost-cutting is not leadership, unless you add a caveat: without damaging the business. Leadership ensures cost-cutting does not become asset-stripping. Which brings us to the longer term.
Assets must be invested in. Any leader who has inherited brilliant people, strong customer relationships or a great brand recognises this. But in trying economic circumstances it is difficult to justify the resources needed to create ‘strategic assets’. It calls for resolve, clear thinking and negotiation with opinion-makers to support investment. Without this, initiatives will stall. And part of the leadership task is to address any residual opposition.
Driving both short-term initiatives and longer-term investment decisions requires a crucial leadership ingredient: good relationships. Getting people energised and confident that they can influence the bottom line is more likely when trust and respect are established. Given how easy it is to ignore the importance of relationships, it is probably the best practical starting point for most of us as leaders.
This article first appeared in Springboard, the magazine of UK Trade & Investment
David Butcher is the Director of the School's General Management Group, Cranfield's flagship executive development programme and the Cranfield Business Leaders' Programme.