Do these sound like familiar management quotations?
- Worrying about “recruiting talent”, as “the rise of lower leaders who are not as experienced” would “lead to the repeat of mistakes,”.
- Leaders of large corporations admitting “that they were now seen ‘as a group that does not hesitate to take people’s money by falsehood’” or that a large portion of people around the world “have lost their trust” in the organisation.
- A leadership that is so concerned about image that it considers changing the brand’s name, as the name “is so damaged” that it is synonymous with outrage and failure.
Though these may sound like certain hedge fund or global banking and oil leaders, they’re not from corporate leaders (at least, not the kind you’re thinking of.) These were the ruminations of Osama bin Laden and his seniors before his abrupt end at the hands of US soldiers. He was worried about succession planning, organisational loyalty and corporate branding, amongst other things. (Read the Yahoo! News story here – http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/depressed-bin-laden-thought-al-qaida-name-change-175556810.html)
They may be important, but paying attention to these matters does not in and of itself make for a virtuous corporation or leader. I have seen terms like “Authentic Leadership” being bandied about as the solution to ethical problems in leadership, corporate violations and consumer and government rip-offs. But none of these is a solution. I submit that people like bin Laden and Hitler before him were very authentic and genuine – it’s just that they also happened to despise large portions of the world’s population and wished to exterminate them by force. They found some good, loyal followers to help them too.
Let’s face it: What most people want in their leaders is someone who won’t treat them like dirt, will listen to them and will involve them in achieving something regarded as important. And when we talk about inspiring, global leadership we’re talking about people who will treat others with care and respect while doing something that benefits others – whether consumer, employee or shareholder. Instead of coming at it obliquely by saying we’re “Authentic” or otherwise, how about just saying that’s what we want?
A client of mine hit it on the head when we were discussing global leaders in the U.S., South Asia, Europe and Asia-Pacific. The general populace and media bemoan the lack of statesmen in the world today. Back in my undergraduate days, my International Relations professor said time and again that it is a standard rule of international relations that “No country acts outside of its own national self-interest.” Otherwise, it would be self-defeating. However, my client, who works in leadership capacities in Australia and South Asia, pointed out that what we really need are leaders who will look not only to the interests of their own nations, but to the interests of other nations around the world.
There, my friends, he hit the nail right on the head. That’s true statesmanship and great leadership: Someone who acts in the interests of the people he or she leads, as well as in the interests of those who surround them.
Don’t let the corporate-speak fool you. It is important to plan for succession, consider the brand, examine recruiting practices and so on, but in the end, you must ask: Are we acting to serve the best interests of others, as well as ourselves?
3 Strategic Questions to Ask Yourself and Your Leadership
- Are we navel-gazing because we are not focussed on the needs of our clients/customers?
- Are we so (self-)involved in our own strategy that we don’t see the outcomes of what we are doing?
- How much does our organisation seek to create benefits for everyone involved in our activities?