Developing Leadership for Growth Companies

Not all executives are leaders.  Not all managers are executives.  Not all career people are professional.

Top company management usually comes from the ranks of those who sell the core business product-service, not from those on the firing line who deliver it.   That’s why in media, programming and news people rarely become management.  Since advertising sales is the primary product of media, the sales people become the managers.  In education, good teachers stay in the classroom.  In the energy industry, engineers dominate. Engineers steadfastly believe that they’re in the energy exploration and production business.  The companies themselves are in the energy marketing business.    Restaurants are in the business of marketing atmosphere and service.  Yet, they put food preparers (representing 20% of the pie) in charge.  Decisions are always food driven, explaining in part the high failure rate of restaurants.  Other reasons include poor planning, substandard customer service, low capitalization and inappropriate marketing.

A major problem with companies stems from the fact that management and company leadership come from one small piece of the organizational pie.  Filling all management slots with financial people, for example, serves to limit the organizational strategy and focus.  They all hire like-minded people and frame every business decision from their micro perspective.

The ideal executive has strong leadership skills first.  He or she develops organizational vision and sets strategies.  Leaders should reflect a diversity of focus, guaranteeing that a balance is achieved. The best management team looks at the macro, rather than just the niche micro.

None of us was born with sophisticated, finely tuned senses and highly enlightened viewpoints for life.  We muddle through, try our best and get hit in the gut several times.  Thus, we learn, amass knowledge and turn most experiences into strategies.  Such a perspective is what makes seasoned executives valuable in the business marketplace.

Life has a way of forcing the human condition to change.  Events which may inspire this to happen could include a recognition that the old methods are not working, financial failures or the monetary incentive to rapidly create or change plans of action.  At most crossroads, there is no choice but to change the modus operandi.  This may include the loss of substantial numbers of opportunities, customers, employees and market share or a “wake up call” of any type.

The most effective leaders accept that change is 90% positive and find reasons and rationale to embrace change.  Leadership skills are learned and synthesized daily.  Knowledge is usually amassed through unexpected sources.

The business leader as community leader
In eras following downturns and scandals, it is incumbent upon good companies to go the extra distance to be ethical and set good examples.  Demonstrating visible caring for communities by company executives is the ultimate form of Customer Focused Management.

No matter the size of the organization, goodwill must be banked.  Every company must make deposits for those inevitable times in which withdrawals will be made.

To say that business and its communities do not affect each other, is short-sighted…and will make business the loser every time.  Business marries the community that it settles with.  The community has to be given a reason to care for the business.  Business owes its well-being and livelihood to its communities.

Business leaders have an obligation to serve on community boards and be very visible in the communities in which they do business.  If done right, community stewardship builds executives into better leaders, as well as receiving deserved credit for the company.  Civic service is the ultimate way to steer heir apparents toward the leadership track.

Communities are clusters of individuals, each with its own agenda.  In order to be minimally successful, each company must know the components of its home community intimately.  Each company has a business stake for doing its part.  Community relations in reality is a function of self-interest, rather than just being a good citizen.

Companies should support off-duty involvement of employees in pro bono capacities but not take unfair credit.  Volunteers are essential to community relations.  Companies must show tangible evidence of supporting the community by assigning key executives to high-profile community assignments.  Create a formal volunteer guild, and allow employees the latitude and creativity to contribute to the common good.  Celebrate and reward their efforts.

Publicity and promotions should support effective community relations and not be the substitute or smokescreen for the process.  Recognition is as desirable for the community as for the business.  Good news shows progress and encourages others to participate.

The well-rounded community relations program embodies all elements: accessibility of company officials to citizens, participation by the company in business and civic activities, public service promotions, special events, plant communications materials and open houses, grassroots constituency building and good citizenry.

No entity can operate without affecting or being affected by its communities.  Business must behave like a guest in its communities, never failing to give potlatch or return courtesies.  Community acceptance for one project does not mean than the job of community relations has been completed. It is not “insurance” that can be bought overnight.  It is tied to the bottom line and must be treated accordingly, with the resources and expertise to do it effectively.  It is a bond of trust that, if violated, will haunt the business.  If steadily built, the trust can be exponentially parlayed into successful long-term business relationships.

Hank Moore has advised 5,000+ client organizations worldwide, two U.S. Presidents and spoken at five Economic Summits.  The Business Tree is his trademarked approach to growing, strengthening and evolving business, while mastering change.