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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

5 Key Traits of Great Business Leaders

Some excellent thoughts from Howard Schultz, ceo of Starbucks:

Introducing Positive Leadership Limited

'Leadership is the capacity and will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence’ Field Marshall Lord Montgomery

'For some time now, both prior to and since resigning from the board of Winning Scotland Foundation earlier this year, it has become increasingly clear to me, through experiences and in depth research, that what sets great organisations apart is the quality and depth of leadership, particularly as evidenced in situations of pressure. It is equally apparent that some of the characteristics of elite sport leadership can offer a metaphor for leadership action in business that goes beyond the often used clich├ęs of commitment, dedication and aggression. As Kevin Roberts, chairman and ceo of Saatchi Worldwide says; ‘...don’t look to great companies for inspiration. Instead, look to the world’s greatest sports teams. Sport is the most relevant model for peak performance in business. Sport is about teamwork, inclusion and empowerment. It’s about passion, fun, excitement, making magic, winning and being part of a dream.’

Recognising the importance of leadership to organisational success, particularly in these difficult economic times, I have therefore spent the past few months studying leadership in business and in sport and analysing what it is that sets top performing leaders apart. During this time, I have also been fortunate to travel widely in Europe and North America observing my younger daughter compete successfully at the highest level of women’s international amateur golf, before she enrols at Stanford University this autumn. My goal during this time has been to build on my experiences and achievements in business, and more recently with Winning Scotland Foundation, in order to develop an innovative approach to strategy consulting which brings the lessons of leadership in sport and business together in a manner which can deliver sustained performance improvement for clients. Understanding the dynamics of elite sport from such close quarters and at the same time observing leadership from an international perspective has been particularly helpful in shaping the vision and focus for my new business, Positive Leadership Limited.

Organisations of all types depend on strong and effective leadership to guide them through unprecedented changes. However, given the turmoil which markets around the world have experienced in the past year, it is evident that inadequate leadership has been a major contributing factor in the demise of many well known businesses, especially in the global financial services industry. It is perhaps not surprising therefore that surveys of ceo’s show that they believe the one factor that will determine their long term fate is the quality of leadership talent in the organisation. However, while every leader is aware of the value of a well defined business strategy, few appear to give thought to the leadership challenges that arise when implementing strategies that call for changes in the direction or capabilities of their organisation. Without proper leadership, even the best and boldest strategies will struggle to realise their full potential.

In a turbulent environment where constant change, unpredictability, pressure and uncertainty prevail and where the boundaries within which organisations operate are no longer clear, it is apparent that effective strategic leadership will be a crucial determinant of long term success. Furthermore, leadership has become a responsibility shared by all members of the organisation. In such a situation, where leadership is plural, the ultimate way to transform ordinary people into leaders is to convince them to define themselves as leaders. Leaders learn by doing.

As the greatest US college basketball coach in history, John Wooden said; ‘....whether your team has talent to spare or is spare on talent, a leader’s goal remains the same; namely, to bring forth the best from those with whom you work.’

Strategic leadership in such a context is therefore a journey which is to be undertaken by everyone in the organisation. It is not the province of the select few. The challenge is to equip all those in the organisation with the mindset necessary to lead effectively. Strategic leadership is an approach to leadership that takes into account not just operational excellence and the ‘top team’ but also the strategy and purpose of the business. Strategic leadership provides the vision, direction, purpose and context for the success of an organisation.

Against this backdrop of challenge and opportunity and given my own international corporate finance background, Positive Leadership Limited has therefore been established to provide clients in the UK and USA with an innovative, results based approach to strategic leadership consulting and performance improvement which is founded on respected thinking and international best practice in the fields of business and elite sport.

Our two primary goals at Positive Leadership Limited are to:

 help leaders solve critical strategic issues, accelerate growth and enhance the reputation of their organisation, and

 equip the leaders of today and tomorrow with the skills and confidence necessary to win consistently in a competitive environment.

Our mission is to help leaders excel under pressure.'

Graham Watson, Director, Positive Leadership Limited