Enhancing your leadership relevance – 3

A leader that wants to remain relevant must train his followers to be systems thinkers. What this means is that every member of the team must learn to see the big picture rather than snapshots of events or functions. In an organization, no function is unimportant. A badly treated company driver can drive an executive to death, albeit unwittingly! The man at the gate who has no relational skills may drive potential customers away and irreparably dent corporate image. Departmental independence stops where functions overlap. If all departments in the organization are made to know that at every stage, each individual and department’s input is what results in the overall corporate outcome, good or bad, it makes everyone in the loop recognize that he is contributing to something bigger than himself. Recognizing that his contributions are valued, the follower brings in measured and invaluable contributions that contribute significantly in a positive way to corporate outcomes and bottom-line

A man cannot give what he does not have. A leader that unwittingly factionalizes his own establishment by a ‘divide and rule’ tactic arising from his own insecurity can hardly teach others to be systems thinkers. Without systems thinking skills, a leader will preside over a fragmented organization where each person sees himself as a star that can shine independent of the input of his colleagues. When this happens in any organization, it is a matter of time before it sings its swan song!

The average age of today’s top executive is about thirty two years. This is so because competition has opened up more job options for today’s competent worker who is young, ambitious and upwardly mobile. The implication of this is that good staff is getting harder to come by and harder still, to retain! Conversely, many organizations do not have a structure that guarantees tenure of office to any employer at whatever level and they make no secret of it. They pay great wages all right but they only continue to do so only for as long as the employee remains relevant to their needs. Many organizations have no retirement package that shows the employee that his employer is concerned about his post-employment survival. Consequently, getting competent staff that will also remain loyal and work for the long haul is becoming more and more difficult. The general thinking is, “Let me hustle now and get to the top and make as much as I can while I am still young. After all, none of these employers really cares about my person. They only want my skills.”

I know a young man who changed jobs about four times in less than two years, each time with a higher position and correspondent salary increase! I also know a CEO who will go to any length to poach anyone that he knows is good from his current employer. He lures them with huge salaries but unfortunately, in many instances, it becomes evident to many of such employees that they were only employed so that the competitor would not have access to them! Many of such people have been known to resign in frustration!

The constant flow of inter-organizational human capital translates to the crude fact that no leader should take employee loyalty for granted! There simply are not too many loyal employees anymore. This is the reason why many CEOs have made the grievous mistake of significantly cutting down their company’s training budget. The thinking is, “What if we invest so much on their training and they leave thereafter?” My answer to that is very simple. “What if you refuse to train them and they stay?” In my humble professional opinion, the latter is more dangerous to the progress of any organization. Using unskilled hands is like trying to cut a tree with a dull axe. Here is how the Bible puts it in Ecclesiastes 10:10, “A dull axe means harder work, being wise (i.e. acquiring requisite knowledge and its application) will make it easier.” NCV (parenthesis mine).

In any case, if you poached them from another organization because of their skills, how would they have acquired those skills if that organization did not equip them? And how would you have found them relevant to your own operations? What goes round comes around. It is indeed true that the decapitator does not like anyone wielding a sword around him!

To minimize high employee turnover, hire people in a way that matches skills with the employee’s personal expectations on the job and for the future. When employees can find a nexus between their life goals, vision for the future, ambition and their job functions, they tend to go the long haul. Secondly, encourage their input into critical decision-making as well as execution. This engenders a sense of stakeholdership that stems the tide of frustration that can occur even in spite of a mouth-watering paycheck!

Finally, if you are in the production sector, you must understand that the era of commodities is gone forever. People don’t buy products anymore! Yes you read that right. No typo or semantic errors! The world is awash with so many commodities and products that the end-user cares less what name you call the product or who the manufacturer is unless that information is relevant to his purpose for buying it! Faced with so many options (which you wrongly or rightly label competition), the customer is more concerned with what a product does for him than he cares about who manufactured it! In other words, people buy the product of a product. Simply put, we all buy a solution coded in a value proposition which a product in turn represents! Every buying decision is emotional. It therefore follows that to connect with the buyer’s pocket, you need to first connect with his heart. No wonder Zig Ziglar defined sales as the transfer of enthusiasm from one person to another. You must therefore be able to convince the buyer that his money is better in your hands than it is in his pocket.

Consequently, the leader must develop emotional intelligence skills that enable him to forge relationships both with his followers and his market in a way that communicates to them that he is on the job to serve them by caring enough to help them solve particular problems in their lives through the deployment of certain services or products. When this is properly done, the focus is less on the product. Attention is focused on the SOLUTION that it offers. Result? Unalloyed buy-in that engenders loyalty and guarantees comeback traffic, the soul of any enterprise.

Are you in leadership as a flash-in-the-pan phenomenon or do you intend to be around for a long time? Indeed, time will tell sequel to your input. Suffice it to say however, that the degree to which you master these skills will determine which side of the divide you eventually fall into!


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