The keys to excellent leadership at all levelsBY RAED S. HADDAD
Leadership is becoming increasingly complex not just in Singapore. Leaders need to be mindful and respect various cultural, societal backgrounds, market differences and expectations of their fellow employees. The business environment today also brings together a culmination of social and economic circumstances, which challenge responsibilities, roles and competency among leaders.
Managing Expectations: The Changing Competencies of Front-Line Leaders
The mobile workforce is just one example of where there may be a growing gap between the expectations of the employee and the requirements of the organisation and its leaders. Frontline leaders are caught in the middle and will need skills and support to reconcile the imbalance.
Social media may also be a platform for managers to leverage and connect with their teams as it enables the ordinary individual his/her share of voice, allowing ideas and opinions to be tweeted and posted without restriction. However, relying solely on technology for communication is not recommended and most certainly, not to be used as a substitute for personal face-to-face relationships.
Coaching and Collaboration for Team Alignment
Coaching and collaboration are key tools for engaging social-savvy workers, and leaders and department heads need to help employees translate their expectations from their online interactions such as blogs and twitter into the workplace through an informal peer review process. It is also possible to use the same technique at work to engage ideas, validate opinions and gather solutions.
It is highly recommended for frontline leaders to be developed through coaching and training programmes that elevate skills from transaction-based client interactions to experienced-focused service.
Building Informal Leaders in a Flat Organisation
When employees resign and teams get smaller, what is the impact on how work gets done and how teams are managed? Informal leaders, who may not be an ideal fit for the title end up shouldering the responsibility. But, are they prepared? Usually, as they lead by default rather than selection, these informal leaders’ strengths and weaknesses are overlooked and they do not receive adequate training and coaching.
A distinct disadvantage of a flattened organisational structure is the tendency for roles and responsibilities to overlap as resources are distributed. One of the vital ways to get around this is through communication, which helps to avoid duplication of work and the inevitable friction that occurs with blurred responsibilities.
Committing Senior Management to Efficiency
Senior managers should start with efficient business processes and strong project and portfolio methodology. With limited resources, business leaders cannot afford to continue performing the same functions in the same way if they are going to survive in an environment of scarcity. They must be able to discern what is core to the needs of the business, what is secondary and what is non-essential; then redesign functional responsibilities and business processes accordingly.
Project sponsorship and portfolio management are two of the primary functions senior managers fulfill in the process. As a project sponsor, leaders ensure their projects are delivering on their stated objectives, and best practices are being utilised from project planning to project closeout.
As portfolio managers, senior leaders rank and prioritise projects based on the firm’s objectives and then ensure that resources are allocated accordingly. This understanding and utilising of best practices in both of these areas is a critical competency for senior managers in today’s environment.
The Leadership & Development Response
Learning and Development (L&D) organisations will play a critical role in supporting all levels of management as roles, responsibilities and competency requirements shift to meet these evolving challenges.
Frontline leaders are caught in the middle of competing expectations and need strong business acumen, communication skills and a collaborative mindset to clearly understand organisational goals, communicate effectively with their teams and navigate expectations to reach desired business outcomes.
Increasing market demands mean that client facing teams and their frontline leaders will need to be situationally aware and capable of uncovering and meeting customer needs at the critical points of impact.
Informal leaders potentially represent the greatest opportunity for L&D engagement. They quite often go unrecognised and are subjected to trial-by-fire development. Given their neglect and their growing importance in the organisation, many will require foundational leadership development, a better understanding of how to communicate in a matrix environment and a broader understanding of the business.
Raed S. Haddad is Managing Director, Asia Pacific, ESI International. He delivers ESI APAC’s strategic plan in the most effective and efficient manner that serves clients in the region and increases ESI’s presence in markets and expands into new markets. Raed is an in-demand speaker at conferences, events and with executive audiences worldwide. Raed holds a bachelor's degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering and a master's degree in Engineering, both from the University of Rhode Island, Additionally, he holds an MS in Engineering Administration in Project Management & MIS from The George Washington University.