The strengths and weaknesses of a superhero CEO
Mark Loftus for The European
Building purpose into a business is an admirable ambition. But these ‘heroic’ leaders still have weaknesses to balance out their strengths. During ten years as Unilever CEO, Paul Polman became highly regarded as a corporate change champion, encouraging the firm to adapt its thinking and give back. (CEO strengths and weaknesses)
When revealed he would leave in 2018, chairman Marijn Dekkers called him “one of the most far-sighted business leaders of his generation” for redefining responsible capitalism. As someone who’s professionally analysed and coached leaders for over 20 years, Mr Polman’s recent reference to so-called “heroic chief executives” struck a chord with me.
Are those people really protecting the defenceless once they leave the office, charging around in masks and capes? Well, yes and no.
Discussing inequality and climate change, Mr Polman said: “The fact we are having these issues of populism and schisms in society is exactly because we are not addressing the underlying issue to evolve capitalism and make sure it works for everybody. [We need] heroic chief executives willing to step up and move outside of the comfort zone and take personal risks. I tried to do the same with Unilever.
It’s a matter of willpower.” Bruce Wayne – or Batman – is a prime example of a hero driven by an unwavering energy to use his wealth and intelligence for good. But who are some of the real-world examples of “heroic chief executives” Mt Polman has referred to? And, given every hero has a flaw, how can they manage their weaknesses?
Richard Branson’s Virgin empire has spanned everything from music to space. In 2004 he launched Virgin Unite, a charitable foundation funded directly by the business and Mr Branson. (CEO strengths and weaknesses)
To read the piece in full on the The European website click here and go to page 48.
Previous Business Vision article.
Every entrepreneur or manager has a mental image about how they’d like their workforce to look but, in many cases, they’ll expect duplicates of themselves which isn’t always good for an organisational culture. As we discussed before, diversity is a key weapon in a company’s armoury – it leads to better business performance and also promotes an inclusive environment. (What does innovation means?)
Innovation is a prime area of focus for many businesses today. So, if the vision for the staff body is that they all work innovatively, that’s great. Having goals is fundamental, but so is having the skills to hit the back of the net. Just because the boss may be innovative doesn’t mean staff will automatically become creatively-minded. Similarly, if managers aren’t innovative, then they definitely shouldn’t expect staff to think inventively.
The first step in this instance is considering why you want innovation and what it looks like to you. It’s easy to buy into innovation itself because it’s such an omnipresent buzzword but you should know what you want from its implementation. Is that the use of new software to help improve business processes? Is it workers using more out-of-the box thinking? Whatever it may be, focusing on leadership development will be your starting point.
How the team leader thinks and operates will play a big role in building an innovative team. On top of your personal desires, what does innovation mean to your business overall? If the answer is not much, then you’ll need to look at changing organisational culture and that’s a top-down process, which isn’t always straightforward, but the reward will certainly be worthwhile.
Communication in this instance is what’s required to get going. As a leader, you must outline to yourself precisely what you want from the team and then translate that to them. Remember, the staff aren’t mind readers. The crucial thing following this is to lead by example. An old saying it may be but, the head of the team must ensure they practise what they preach in order to demonstrate how they would like specific tasks to be handled.
PwC’s 2018 study on preparing for tomorrow’s workforce surveyed business and HR leaders globally and, unsurprisingly, innovation was raised. 79% of respondents placed a collaborative environment as either highly important or important, agreeing “our working environments are designed to encourage teamwork, collaboration and innovation.” Seemingly you can’t have one without the other – to foster innovation means is to foster teamwork and collaboration.
Elsewhere, the report also detailed that in terms of innovation specifically, 76% claimed “we have avenues present for employees to offer innovative ideas and support them in turning these ideas into action.”
As a leader, you’re in the driving seat to encourage effective teamwork, but a roadmap is needed, so tell your passengers where you’re all heading – or, even better, ask them if they feel like there’s any other routes that should be taken on the way. Ensure they’re not sitting in silence for the journey and in doing so, the results will speak for themselves as innovative ideas will come.
At CharacterScope we’ve seen how powerful open dialogue is. And as our users have understood themselves and their leadership styles better, they’ve better communicated with their teams, who’ve better taken hold of their duties. By empowering yourself through continuous learning and leadership development, you can in turn empower your team as they learn from you.
One way of looking at it as an intrapreneur. This phrase refers to a manager who thinks like an entrepreneur – like a builder. As PwC found, “people increasingly want to feel that their contributions count.” Developing an innovative team, encouraging them to also think like intrapreneurs, can only be a positive thing that will work towards your goals.
Hidden secrets of the Innovator
Mark Loftus for Business Vision
Innovators: entrepreneurs taking risks, investors with confidence in their own judgement, colleagues who find the new angle. What makes them tick?
You may assume they are filled with self-confidence, but not every innovator is (or at least has not yet been recognised as) the next Jobs, Gates or Musk. They could well be quiet and unassuming, and not display their potentially explosive talent. You may sense from them underlying unease or tension, a symptom of the dark side that leads them to discovery and invention.
Whoever they are, they are in demand with the world’s business leaders. Leadership teams are learning to identify and attract them, and ensure that they arrive once they’ve been lured in.
Novelists, musicians and artists all create, but innovation goes further. It means experimentation, time-wasting, risk-taking, being prepared to search for something that may not exist… or even be possible.
Ironically, based on the reports of 7,000 CharcterScope users surveyed, innovators are likely to be low in self-belief. They often doubt their own work, and are constantly evaluating and dismissing their own ideas before they’re properly formed.
Their colleagues can inadvertently add to the problem by being over-critical, or fretting about potential risks and downsides too early in the piece.
Managing Innovators requires care and nurture. Some will need encouragement, to be told when to push on, and when to quit. But identifying the innovators in a company is not always straightforward. Data shows that many people whose pattern of strengths indicating a strong fit to the innovator will be invisible because of that lack of self-confidence.
What’s more, fresh ideas are fragile things: subjected to too much scrutiny too early, they will shrivel and die (unfortunately reinforcing self-doubt in the process).
To nurture the spirit of innovation, think more like a midwife than a surgeon: be encouraging and supportive, and guide when you can in what is often a messy and disruptive process.
If you are the innovator, try to find a creative mentor who is willing to support you. The most satisfying part of innovation is doing it with like-minded people, working co-operatively.
To read the piece on the Business Vision website click here and go to page 50-51/112.
Read Benefit of the doubt? The Innovator and Self-belief.
As businesses scale and change, often at a ferocious pace, there is often a need to promote and recruit new and inexperienced managers to lead people and drive the company forwards.
This can bring with it a range of benefits. They often bring a fresh approach, appetite and enthusiasm. There’s also the added fact that they’re often young and can be developed and nurtured. However, if they joined the business as a junior, regardless of how perfect they were for their previous post, they won’t necessarily have the managerial experience their predecessor possessed. So, what are you supposed to do?
In many cases, companies just hope for the best. They hand over the keys to the promoted party’s position and let them learn how to lead on their own, which is not without its risks. The desire to move fast means that support comes more likely when things are broken, in the form of interventions, rather than being ongoing. When this goes wrong, it can have a huge impact on morale, culture and your organisation’s ability to attract and retain talent.
But an inexperienced individual joining the company wouldn’t be left to it, so why would you leave someone without experience of managing peers to chance? Ultimately, if you want your managers to manage, and manage well, you need to ensure they’re equipped and supported to do this as well as they can. The stakes are too high.
Sure, you don’t want to breathe down their necks every two minutes and nor do they want you to – they’re a manager now, right? But the necessary traits they possess that got them the step up the corporate ladder in the first place must be reviewed to see where improvements can be made in order to achieve the best outcomes for the team.
At CharacterScope, that’s precisely what we’re built for – developing team leaders. Everyone is different and we know that. It’s not about changing who people are, but encouraging and helping them to be the best versions of themselves, sharpening their strengths while understanding where they can advance. You need strategy and direction to lead a business – why not have the same approach for leading a team?
Disrupting talent management is key to a companies development and helping inexperienced managers. Read our HRreview feature article here.
What do you want from a leadership culture? Read more here.
Why it’s time to disrupt talent management
Mark Loftus for HRReview
“The shift from Talent to talents, from the few to the many, and from talent planning to talent leadership depends on creating and embedding and building a culture of leadership. And this must start with an organisation’s talent professionals.”
To read the piece in full on the HRReview website click here.