Enhancing your leadership relevance – 2

Technology has turned the world into a global village. With the push of a button, one can access information about and from any part of the world. Today’s leader and the organization he leads are faced with challenges of bridging cultural, geographical and functional boundaries.

The implication of this is that the leader that wants to remain relevant must master the art of virtual leadership that enables him to use these boundaries to advantage instead of being a victim of them. The demands of operation in today’s world entail a lot of mobility. Today, many businesses operate entirely online and simply make the use of a virtual address. Several executives use Virtual Assistants that can help to do, for a fraction of the cost, what a full-time assistant would do.

The buzz words in today’s business world include B2B, innovation, outsourcing, disruption among others. Each of these concepts forces the leader to think differently. As it is, the 8am to 4pm working window is fast becoming a cage since it does not necessarily guarantee productivity. The Apple Corporation is headquartered in the USA but its products are manufactured in a factory in faraway China! Many corporate organizations and leaders use virtual internet-based telephone numbers that link calls to their private numbers in a way that ensures that they stay in touch wherever they are in the world. It is therefore possible to be on a beach somewhere in Antigua and control the organization’s operations in Australia! That is the power of virtual leadership!

Taking advantage of technology, a leader should be willing to develop the skills that enable him to give direction to the people he leads irrespective of where he finds himself on the globe. In a recent survey by the Centre For Creative Leadership, 90% of respondents agreed that the skills required for virtual leadership are totally different from the face-to-face leadership style. The central skill for effective virtual leadership is communication. The age of the micro-manager is fast coming to an end. Leaders who plan to be around for the long haul must be creating platforms for their followers to perform rather than being a sometimes nauseating crutch of support. Today’s employees don’t like to work around a leader with a Messiah Complex breathing down their necks in the delusion of indispensability.

Have you noticed that even though we are in the Information Age, the attention span of most people has shrunk significantly? Terrible paradox you would say. However, it should not be surprising. With information about even the most insignificant minutiae bombarding our sensibilities from different platforms faster than we can process or comprehend them, the average person’s subconscious seems to have developed a coping mechanism that routinely refuses to retain too much or pay too much attention to everything he hears. Afterall, it is common knowledge that what is held as canon today might become tomorrow’s myth.

According to Gloria Mark, the average worker today is interrupted every ELEVEN MINUTES! Such interruptions range from a boss or a colleague who needs attention, a mail that presents as urgent, to a telephone call that does not necessarily have to do with the job at hand!  And when an employee is thus interrupted, it takes an average of about twenty five to thirty minutes to return to the original task! Welcome to the Age of Interruption. A recent research survey indicates that executives experience interruptions every thirty to forty minutes on the average, sometimes by the most insignificant things. The logic of this is that long stretches of uninterrupted work is becoming rare.

Nobody spends eight hours at a stretch working anymore! A leader must learn to use this to advantage by developing the skill of scaling work in such a way that helps to prioritize assignments and set time-frames of accomplishment instead of shrinking everything into the 8 to 4 work window. Interruptions can only be minimized, not eliminated. There are several software in the cyber market that can help minimize interruptions. Phones can now be set to go directly to voicemail in a way that you can hear the message and decide if it is a call you want to answer or return. You can set your calls to divert to another number which is not with you while working and you can return such calls later at your convenience. With an auto-responder, you can set up your email not reply mails with a customized message until you are in a position to personally reply them.

No matter how much you hate to e interrupted, live with it. You only have to adapt and adjust!

The solo-achiever is fast becoming a dinosaur. If you have this feeling that you can do it all by yourself, you will soon burn out! Paradoxically, today’s businesses are becoming leaner while at the same time endeavoring to grow bottom-line. You could almost call it shrinking into greatness. How have the organizations that have succeeded in this approach done it? It only happens when leaders learn to concentrate on what they do best and let others handle what they are deficient in. Monopolies are out. Collaboration is in! To succeed in today’s climate, a leader must not only learn the skills of collaboration, he must use it to great advantage. Collaboration is to be encouraged at both intra and inter-organizational levels.

Take a publishing company for example. Publishing involves several processes from manuscript generation, editing, proof-reading, cover design, print-ready proofs, lithography, colour separation before actual printing, which further entails binding, stitching, guillotine among others. Today’s publisher does not need to own this entire chain. Most of these services can be outsourced and monitored for quality. I run a publishing outfit but I have no intention of owning a printing press. I have a crop of talented service providers at each stage of the processes that, for a fee would give me the kind of quality I desire for a fraction of what I would have paid full-time employees for each of those processes. I can therefore keep costs down because my overhead commitments are leaner. Leaders must teach everyone in the organization that it takes teamwork to make the dream work! No man is an island. All of us will always be better and more effective than any one of us! To remain relevant in today’s operating environment, leaders must therefore cultivate the culture, the mindset and the skills required for collaboration. Beyond this, he must deliberately reward teamwork and be willing to share credit with other members of the team while encouraging his subordinates to do the same…continued

Remember, the sky is not your limit, God is!