In the corporate world today, almost everyone aspires to fill a leadership role. Why? It’s in our nature – we just simply want to get ahead. And in the corporate world, that means climbing the corporate leadership ladder. But do those who climb the corporate ladder really appreciate the responsibility that comes with being a leader i.e. with increased leadership status comes increased leadership responsibility and requisite accountability.

Remember, as a leader, your overarching responsibility is to guard the health of the entire organisation and to do so On Purpose. This means looking after all of the organisation’s tangible and intangible assets e.g. diligently managing its financial health, looking out for its future sustainability, protecting its balance sheet items, guarding its culture, vociferously protecting its brand and dedicating your time to nurturing the talent and succession of all your employees so that they in turn guard the organisation.

Why am I highlighting this right at the outset of this article? Because in my experience, most leaders focus the bulk of their time and energy on the first three items mentioned and pay little attention to the rest. That is why we are seeing the demise of so many organisations today.

The leaders of KPMG, SAP South Africa, McKinsey South Africa, Steinhoff, Tiger Brands (Enterprise) and Lehman Brothers had the same responsibility, but neglected it – with dire consequences. In the aftermath, the successes achieved by these organisations and their leadership teams have been completely buried under the failures and scandals. Because the leaders compromised on integrity in the pursuit of profits, they failed to protect the sustainability and longevity of their organisations, leaving everyone involved tainted.

Now, more than ever, we need leaders to acknowledge what they are neglecting and in doing so, truly appreciate the need to be humble enough to learn from their own and others’ mistakes; being courageous and willing to lead their organisations and teams boldly. These traits need to be amplified and should be beating loudly in the ears of all leaders.

I use The Purposeful Leadership Company’s Five Essentials of Purposeful Leadership philosophy to help leaders better understand the gravitas of their roles and to illustrate what guarding and leading On Purpose really means. As a leader charged with guarding the organisation, I believe that practising the following will help you to effectively look after the aspects that leaders most often neglect i.e. culture, brand, and talent and succession:

  1. Setting and reinforcing purpose and direction as the path for all to follow by connecting individual and team efforts to support the greater purpose and sustainability of the organisation.
  2. Leading by example by role-modelling both the organisation’s values and what is required from followers. Be the custodian of your organisation’s culture and Leadership Brand e. its values and behaviours. This is the basis for leadership integrity.
  3. Inspiring your team members in a manner that motivates them to follow you by connecting with and coaching them at a deeper, emotional level. This starts with understanding your team members’ needs, aspirations and fears which form the basis for building relationships of trust and respect.
  4. Communicating consistently and constantly through various platforms so that team members always understand the business’s direction and purpose, and their role in supporting it.
  5. Leading all the time by recognising that leadership is an attitude, not a position and it is leading consistently that really matters. Leaders must not be bound by constraints such as working hours and departmental silos – they must be aware of and understand how they are received by others all the time.

We are all aware of these essentials – they are not new. However, I unfortunately experience leaders using these essentials in isolation of each other – meaning some leaders use some of the essentials, some of the time. By applying these inconsistently, leaders tarnish their believability and make little positive impact.

I have recognised vast improvements in the leaders who I am privileged to work with when they start measuring themselves against these five essentials, acknowledging the feedback and implementing the required change. Applying these five essentials in a consistent manner has helped them to truly guard their organisations.

While your employees are not an item that appears on your organisation’s balance sheet, it is ultimately their efforts that make or break the balance sheet. Leaders who use the five essentials are active and take initiative to effectively guard not only the finances, sustainability and balance sheet items, but equally the organisation’s culture, brand, and talent and succession.

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