Lead by example to achieve your business goals

August 24, 2012
Darryl Cooke

Executive Chairman

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Leadership is everything in reaching business goals

Good leaders inspire others to achieve business goals. They set the vision, the strategy, the culture and have an ability to draw together a team. They set the example, provide the excitement and act as the glue that pulls a team together.

It’s a myth that there are natural born leaders. Like any other skill, leadership can be practised and learned.

“A leader must bring clarity to the operation. To do so will mean they need time apart to understand the information, its quality and what the business needs.”

It is far more instinctive than anything taught or pre-meditated but it is acquired somehow through the experiences of everyday life, and the study of others.

Leaders set the business goals and drive the agenda. They bring their senior management team with them and inspire them to want the same goals, in addition to driving the behaviour necessary to achieve them.

Set an example

Firstly, strong leaders work tirelessly towards the business goals, they set an example to their team. They get in a boat and grab an oar – instead of sitting in the back of the boat exhorting their team on whilst they sit there doing nothing. Nor will they sit on the boat wielding a whip over their team as if they were slaves and frightening them to death.

They will work as long and hard as the team do and do this because they want to. Good leaders enjoy teamwork and camaraderie. They understand the importance of setting a good example. They’re honest, transparent and set the standards of performance for the company.

Stop to think

Secondly, the most effective leaders create time to stop and think. Their minds will at all times be focused on the company’s goals. They will always be questioning, learning, reading. A Chinese proverb goes, “Learning is like rowing upstream; not to advance is to drop back”. The real objective of reading, studying and learning is to ensure that you are always challenging and asking questions.

Leaders need to see the wood from the trees in order to analyse and dissect all of the information in their business. They must bring clarity to the operations. To do so will mean they need time apart to understand the information, its quality and what the business needs.

Don’t let research distort your thinking

And finally, research is good. Of course it is. But, if you let it, it can distort your thinking. Nothing should replace your instinct, your experience gained over the years of leading your business.

If you have any doubt about this point, you should read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell spends over two hundred pages telling us to trust our judgement, which can be far more effective than the reams of research now produced.

Donald Keough, the former president of Coca-Cola, writes, “Someone or some few people must actually apply wisdom about the direction and goals. Someone must have a vision of the future. The data alone do not get you there. I believe in research but I don’t expect the research to give me much more than a glimmer, an imperfect snapshot of a moment in time. Thinking is the best investment you’ll ever make in your company, in your own career, in your life.”

Time to think is not a luxury or a “nice to have” for a leader. It’s a necessity if you want to reach your business goals. As Goethe said, “action is easy, thought is hard”. Yet, time and again, chairmen and CEOs get carried away by the momentum of their businesses, by the detail, by the moment.

By Darryl Cooke