LEADERSHIP MEANS RUNNING TOWARDS THE FIRE
When a crisis hits, emergency personnel like firefighters and medics are trained to run towards the fire even though their natural instincts will tell them otherwise.
Business works the same way. When the crisis hits, your instincts might tell you to ‘run away’, but the test of true leadership is how you lead through that uncertainty. During the tough economic months we have just faced, our leaders have been tested like never before, and a quote from Robin Sharma resonates: ’Anyone can show exceptional leadership ability in easy times. When all’s going to plan, anyone can be inspirational/excellent/innovative and strong. The real question is, how do you show up when everything’s falling apart?’
Some say that anyone can show exceptional leadership when everything is going right, but the part of the quote that is relevant here is: How do you show up when things are falling apart?
As business leaders, you have been tested as never before, and part of being a great leader is to put your employees first. Research shows that empathy and care are wonderful counterbalancing devices for leaders. If you treat the business as a machine, with inputs and outputs, people become coin-operated levers you pull to increase or decrease production and efficiency, but when you inject the proper levels of empathy and care into your management operating system, it will facilitate a more complete view of the company’s most valuable asset – its people.
It is however important to find the right balance between viewing a business as a complex system to be build, maintained, measured and monitored against viewing business as a collection of human interactions that must be nurtured and developed.
Putting people first doesn’t mean there is an immutable contract to protect people at all costs. Sometimes, difficult employment decisions must be made, but it means that you will consider the human element of your business as the primary ingredient to success and appropriately balance the cold calculation with the realities.
This month we feature Deloitte Africa CEO Ruwayda Redfearn on the cover. She also believes that leadership means running towards the fire, and she sees difficult situations and challenging projects in the workplace as metaphorical fires to fight.
Her way is simple:
- Earn a reputation as a problem-solver − Be good at your job but be willing to go above and beyond to help. Choose to succeed and use your skills to help the
team overcome their challenges.
- Don’t check your job description − Instead, strap on your helmet and volunteer to help the team.
- Make your bias towards action − Spend your energy providing direction and decisions for those who point fingers and wait. By understanding the information, you can absorb it and then act. Ask: ‘Is there something I can do right now that will bring value?’
- Focus on helping other people win − Empower them to get better at solving their own problems. Harnessing and optimising other people’s skills to make them better takes more energy but creates more winners.
- A rising tide lifts all boats − By helping others improve, the company improves, and everyone wins.
Read her inspirational story on page 10.
As business leaders you will always be faced with a crisis. It’s easy for the negativity surrounding a crisis to impact you, but you can choose to use the crisis as a chance to build skills and push the bounds of creativity and agility to develop new ways of thinking and leading by running towards the fire.
Editor: Accountancy SA