Guest-blog: Salma El-Shurafa discusses 6 obstacles that can prevent you from becoming an effective leader

Salma El-Shurafa

Today’s business leaders are faced with an ever-growing list of challenges, with each one adding a layer of complexity to the day-to-day running of their business.

Traditional issues such as dealing with competition, change management, and staff development have been joined by more complex, current matters such as cybersecurity and digital transformation.

For a lot of modern businesses, this means looking outside their organisation to access the necessary guidance and skills to help drive their business forward, such as the recruitment of an experienced executive coach.

Confucius sums up the need for excellence in one of his quotes when he stated: ‘The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.’

One of the best ways to better company performance is to improve the impact of an organisation’s leaders and managers, but as the coronavirus pandemic has shown us, leadership is getting harder.

There is most likely no going back to the old normal after this crisis and this leaves us in a predicament. Our leaders are having to dig deeper, find new ways of working, grapple with new skills and make sense of what is a complex and challenging time.

COVID-19 has fired a warning shot that crises and uncertainty are going to be common events in the future and that means we need to find better ways of equipping our leaders to cope with change.

This is not driven by ambition, but by necessity. COVID-19 offers us a sizable opportunity to transform our leadership styles, philosophy and leadership development programmes so that in the longer term, our leaders and businesses will be more resilient, will recover more quickly and that the aftershock to the economy will be lessened.

If we are going to do this right, then the natural starting point is to refine key learning blocks built into many of our leadership development programmes.

Historically excellent for focusing on the strategy, business continuity and operations, some leadership development initiatives are not always as far-reaching when it comes to how to get the best out of yourself and your people.

Leadership development needs to be sharpened up so it is more relevant to the new era of work with a reinforced emphasis placed on developing people skills, building the right competencies and behaviours to lead others with confidence and embedding learning through more practical application.

Today I have the distinct pleasure of introducing another Guest Blogger, Salma El-Shurafa, who is an executive coach and confidant, facilitator and speaker.

Salma El-Shurafa is an experienced Executive Coach and founder of The Pathway Project, which focuses on providing leadership development and executive coaching. TPP was born as a vessel, focused on guiding the region’s talents.

Through TPP, she was able to apply her professional experience to support emerging leaders in the Middle East on their own journeys to self-discovery.

Salma draws on 15 years of extensive experience as an HR professional, entrepreneur, coach and facilitator. She has coached hundreds of professionals, teams and groups across the Middle East, Asia and Europe, ranging from C-Suite executives to mid-level managers.

Working with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and leading organizations in the region.

She is a Professional Certified Coach by the International Coaching Federation (ICF), a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach from The Coaches Training Institute (CTI) and a graduate of CTI’s Co-Active Leadership program.

Salma is going to talk to us the importance of executive coaching in today’s fast-paced world and why.

Being a leader means building traits and skills that make you stand out from the rest. These competencies and qualities include adaptability, time management, empathy, open-mindedness, self-awareness, and being results-oriented.

However, if you want to be a successful leader, you shouldn’t be spending all your free time developing these skills. You also need to work on overcoming obstacles that can prevent you from harnessing and maximizing your full leadership potential.

Leadership Barriers to Overcome

As a long-time executive and business coach, I have mentored and worked with numerous clients aiming to be the best leader they can be. I have taken notes of the common obstacles that my clients say have been the biggest hurdles they faced as they climbed up the leadership ladder.

Below are the top six challenges you have to overcome as you strive to be an effective leader:

1. Taking on the roles of manager and leader

Managers and leaders have different roles and mindsets.

For instance, managers create goals, direct and build processes and systems. Leaders, on the other hand, set visions, coach, and create relationships.

Although you are aiming to be a leader, being proficient in these two roles will help you a lot. After all, you need to be a visionary but, at the same, manage people and duties. Due to this reason, you have to learn and sharpen both your leadership and managerial skills.

To overcome your doubts about taking on both roles, you have to know the importance of using your managerial know-how to lead effectively. This means learning to stay on top of all your and your team’s day-to-day activities. And this is where becoming a manager will help you.

2. Developing employees and teams

The happiness and growth of employees impact the potential success of any business. Leaders often have to shoulder the huge responsibility of motivating their staff to ensure they are always being productive and performing well in the workplace.

Additionally, you can’t only focus on individual members. You also have to build and coach teams: you have to guide them as they learn to work together to achieve all goals. Your failure to inspire and lead these groups will affect the productivity of the organization, as well.

Building, coaching, and leading individuals and teams won’t be easy, especially if you have several people under you. As such, this is one of the toughest hurdles you have to overcome.

Proper time management and dividing your attention equally with each team and member can help you support employees better and encourage them to stay motivated. Avoid playing favorites; guide every employee to be the best worker they can be.

Even if you are looking for your possible replacement and want to mentor him or her, do not ignore the others. Try to spend an equal amount of time with every one of your employees and teams.

3. Losing confidence in your employees

Once you become a leader, your desire to get things done right away and perfectly may increase. Because of this, you may end up taking everything on your shoulders, which can lead to mediocre results and frustration.

Moreover, you will start losing the trust and confidence in your employees. This will lead to other problems that can be difficult to resolve.

To overcome this hurdle, you have to work on and allow your trust in others to grow. Continue assigning regular or new work to your employees or team and avoid interfering with their tasks or processes unless they ask for your assistance.

Also, do not be embarrassed to ask your employees for help. When you are swamped with work or need to take on other jobs, have someone take some tasks off your plate.

Open and constant communication is crucial for building trust. Schedule regular meetings and encourage everyone to speak up. Whether you want their input on a new project or know if they are having difficulties with some areas or processes, allow them to say what is on their mind.

4. Creating and maintaining genuine relationships in the workplace

Once you become a leader, your interactions with your employees may be reduced. After all, you have the huge responsibility of looking at the bigger picture while your managers and workers handle the daily operations.

Due to this reason, you will start feeling isolated and lose connection with your team. You may have difficulty starting new relationships in the workplace.

Constant communication with your team members can help you maintain your good relationship with them. Moreover, you need to be intentional when connecting with other people in your workplace.

Also, don’t forget to keep and strengthen your relationships with your peers. Whether you are working with them or they are part of other organizations, you will feel less lonely and have people you can turn to for help when you need it.

5. Staying humble and open-minded

Being at the top can increase your confidence a hundredfold. Although being self-assured and assertive can help you in various ways, you need to keep a check on these traits, too.

Having an extremely high sense of self-confidence can impact the way you work with others. Losing trust in your employees is only one possible effect; you may also have difficulty collaborating with and getting feedback from other people.

Being humble can be challenging, but simple practices can help you cultivate humility. Show respect to everyone, regardless of their position, work, or background.

Always help your employees so they know they can still rely on your assistance or guidance, even if, say, you advanced from being a simple line manager into one of the company’s VPs.

Also, stay open-minded. Be open to feedback and collaboration so you can earn the respect of the people around you and learn new things that can help you become a better leader.

6. Managing changes

Change is ever-present and affects how a company functions. As a leader, you need to anticipate these transformations and stay on top of them.

Moreover, you have to guide the organization to weather these changes and overcome any obstacles along the way.

Being aware of the current and expected trends in your industry can help you avoid problems in the future. Moreover, staying updated with industry trends will enable you to define them and articulate any challenges to your team effectively.

With these strategies in place, you will also be able to set goals and create a plan that will allow you and your organization to deal with these changes successfully.

When you are aware of these six obstacles and know how to deal with them, you can become an even better leader — someone that others can look up to, and one you can be truly proud of being.

You can contact Salma El-Shurafa via LinkedIn or by email:
salma dot AT pathwayproject dot ae (removing all the spaces)
linkedin.com/in/salmaelshurafa
website: pathwayproject.ae
Tel: +971 50 462 5698

Why Trust and Purpose is the new Normal in Organisational Development

COVID-19 is a crucible within which resilient leadership is refined. Acting without perfect information, often with only a few hours or days to spare, CEOs have to guide their organizations through myriad decisions and challenges, with significant implications for their company’s whole system: employees, customers, clients, financial partners, suppliers, investors, and other stakeholders, as well as for society as a whole.

Clarity of thinking, communications, and decision-making will be at a premium. Those CEOs who can best exhibit this clarity, and lead from the heart and the head, will inspire their organisations to persevere through this crisis, positioning their brand to emerge in a better place, prepared for whatever may come.

Crises like these, with deep challenges to be navigated, will also lead to opportunities for learning and deepening trust with all stakeholders, while equipping organisations for a step change that creates more value not just for shareholders, but for society as a whole.

From time to time, we lose our bearings as individuals, especially when facing overwhelming challenges, as we are today with the coronavirus pandemic; it is in these moments that we lean into our core, our character and personal values, to find strength and focus on what really matters.

Leaders facing the unprecedented times and circumstances of the moment are also looking to their organisation’s core, its communal culture and values, to inspire resilience, unleash agility, and help employees to thrive, not simply survive.

Setting a regular cadence with a clear voice is critical. Incomplete or conflicting communications can slow the organisation’s response rather than providing better guidance.

In a time of crisis, trust is paramount. This simple formula emphasizes the key elements of trust for individuals and for organizations:

Trust = Transparency + Relationship + Experience

Trust starts with transparency: telling what you know and admitting what you don’t. Trust is also a function of relationships: some level of “knowing” each other among you and your employees, your customers, and your ecosystem. And lastly, it also depends on experience: Do you reliably do what you say?

In times of growing uncertainty, trust is increasingly built by demonstrating an ability to address unanticipated situations and a steady commitment to address the needs of all stakeholders in the best way possible.

It’s also important to recognize and address the emotions of all stakeholders. This is not just about charts and numbers. Narratives can be powerful ways to acknowledge the fears that naturally surface in times of crisis, while at the same time framing the opportunity that can be achieved if stakeholders come together and commit to overcoming the challenges that stand in the way.

A survey I carried out by DataPad asked employees questions on ‘trust and respect’ in relation to their Executive Leadership, Heads of Department and their immediate line managers. The closer the manager’s role was to the respondent, the more likely it was for the employee to answer positively. Immediate managers were trusted “a lot” by 48% of those who responded and “a little” by 36%. 16% of immediate managers are not trusted at all.

Working with CEOs over the years, I have found that thriving cultures are those that are purpose-driven and characterised by vitality and a growth mindset. Organisations where leaders are purposeful and intentional and open to personal change, and where every employee has a voice and is actively engaged in living the organisation’s values, are those with thriving cultures. Many organisations entered into this crisis with such a culture. Others were struggling.

But, like the process of glass blowing, in which beautiful structures are created by manipulating molten glass in a hot furnace, we have observed healthy and resilient cultures emerge from the fires of crisis.

How can an organization maintain or build a thriving culture in this crisis? At their core, organisations are shadows of their leaders. Leaders who greet crisis with perspective and compassion, confront the current reality with optimism for the future, demonstrate personal resilience, and inspire that resilience among their employees are those who will make the difference.

Authentic cultures are not formed by values posted on the wall; they are the result of leaders being purposefully committed to living those values and willing to personally change in order to model the behaviours and actions that maintain integrity.

When values are real, employees and customers know the enterprise is authentic and true to its culture. Especially in a crisis, comparing actions to values is a litmus test of a company’s authenticity.

Culture, we know, is the core of resilience, but it alone is not enough. Other work by our firm has shown that organisations that accelerate performance during good times and bad are able to mobilise, execute, and transform with agility.

During today’s pandemic, agility matters more than ever. Amidst rapid-fire health updates, market volatility, and the extreme spread of the coronavirus, a company’s foresight, ability to learn, and adaptability will set it apart.

Companies strong in these areas have leaders who are future-focused, demonstrate a growth mindset, are able to pivot quickly in times of rapid disruption, and maintain resilience to navigate their organisations.

From swift decisions to shutter offices, institute work-from-home policies, and scale the technological tools to stay connected to customers and stakeholders, agile leaders have assessed the risk and pivoted quickly.

They must also reassess the medium and long term, building on past crisis interventions and associated learnings to evolve operations and innovate to meet changing needs, all while staying true to their culture.

In any time, thriving organisations are true to their purpose, rely on their values, and model agility. Today’s pandemic, which will reduce profits all over the world, is a searing test of every organisation’s culture and values.

Leaders who have laid a solid culture foundation, authentically committed to a set of values, and defined and depended on an inspiring purpose are leading through this crisis by making a difference in the lives of employees and the communities they serve.

This crisis also serves as a furnace for change for those companies that haven’t yet laid the foundation for a thriving culture.

Uncovering authentic organisational purpose can come quite simply from finding ways to be of service. What’s needed today is for all leaders to look beyond profit and ask, “What do I have that could help someone right now?

Where can I practice abundance where there is short supply?” Organisations will be changed by their actions to make a difference in these times of crisis. Connecting with employees at a human level as we enter into one another’s home offices and living rooms, meeting children and pets on the screen, is organically changing and strengthening cultures.

It’s happening today by default; tomorrow leaders can shape their cultures with lessons learned by design. Leaders and organisations that count on their core culture and values and make a difference while pivoting to solve for the future will emerge from the fires of this crisis and thrive.

Yet amid the crisis, a company’s purpose should remain steadfast: It’s never negotiable. Purpose is where the head and the heart unite. While many organizations today have articulated a purpose beyond profit, purpose risks getting ignored in day-to-day decisions.

In a recent survey, 79 per cent of business leaders believe that an organization’s purpose is central to business success, yet 68 per cent said that purpose is not used as a guidepost in leadership decision-making processes within their organization.

Making decisions that tie back to the organization’s purpose is particularly important during a crisis when companies are under increased pressure and stakeholders are paying close attention to every move. We know from research on purpose-driven organizations that they tend to thrive during challenging environments:

Purpose cultivates engaged employees. When companies are cantered on an authentic purpose, employees feel that their work has meaning. Research shows that employees who feel a greater sense of connection are far more likely to ride out volatility and be there to help companies recover and grow when stability returns.

Purpose attracts loyal customers who will stick with you in a downturn. Evidence-based research have shown that eight in ten consumers are more loyal to purpose-driven brands, which can help sustain customer relationships in a downturn and beyond.

Purpose helps companies transform in the right way. Companies that are guided by their purpose when they face hard decisions have a sharper sense for how they should evolve, and their transformation is more cohesive as a result. When purpose is put first, profits generally follow; when profits are first, the results can be more elusive.

Finally, moral and ethical leadership is the key to a successful business, yet it’s clear from the news that the leaders of some of our most influential governments and corporations are making morally questionable decisions. These decisions will lose the trust of society, customers and employees. Trust is the foundation of high functioning relationships and can only be achieved by meaningful dialogue. It is clear that this is not happening. Instead we’re using electronic communication, where it should never be used.

My latest book, Purposeful Discussions, demonstrates the relationship between communications (human 2 human), strategy and business development.

It provides a holistic overview of the leading methods and techniques. It is a hands-on guide for business professionals, and those in higher education, to help guide them through the next decade and the 4th industrial revolution

Any period of volatility can create opportunities that businesses can leverage if they are prepared.

In the case of the COVID-19 outbreak, organizations that take a more assertive and longer-term approach can spark innovations that will define the “next normal.”

A great quote by Stephen R. Covey, sums up the thinking behind trust:

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”

Leadership: when the only answer is to make better decisions


Recently I had a very early morning meeting with one of my mentor’s discussing the changes in leadership within the 4th Industrial Revolution and why leadership, needs to understand the emotional wake of transformation and the time to step down.

Leadership is about defining what the future should look like and getting the board of directors, stakeholders not only to share but develop that future together.

Being trustworthy and selfless; truthful and compassionate – these are wonderful qualities. If leaders consistently displayed these traits, workplaces and employees would be doing much better. But not all leaders, including many of the most famous and successful, exhibit these qualities.

Leadership is getting smarter about work and people and the intersection between them. More and more, working people are telling the truth about topics that they were afraid to talk about openly before. One of the stickiest topics is the quality of leadership found in large and small employers.

We are starting to tell the truth about the fact that most people in leadership positions are lacking in critical skills.

One of the problems with leaders is their ability to listen, at best, or abusive bullies, at worst. Consequently, significant data on workplace bullying report widespread verbal abuse, shouting, berating others, and the creation of a climate of intimidation.

According to a psychology report from the University of California, Berkeley many leaders start to feel powerful, their more benevolent qualities like empathy start to decline.

Other studies show that people in positions of corporate power are three times more likely than lower-level employees to interrupt co-workers, multitask during meetings, raise their voices, and say insulting things.

They don’t know how to talk to their employees and they don’t know how to listen.

If they received any management training at all, they were probably trained to dole out work assignments and evaluate people. They don’t know how to probe for understanding or how to create cohesion on a team.

Organisations have always needed leaders who are good at recognising emerging challenges and inspiring organisational responses. That need is intensifying today as leaders confront, among other things, digitisation, the surging power of data as a competitive weapon, and the ability of artificial intelligence to automate the workplace and enhance business performance.

These technology-driven shifts create an imperative for most organisations to change, which in turn demands more and better leaders up and down the line.

Unfortunately, there is overwhelming evidence that the plethora of services, books, articles, seminars, conferences, and TED-like talks purporting to have the answers—a global industry estimated to be worth more than $50 billion—are delivering disappointing results.

According to a recent Fortune survey, only 7 per cent of CEOs believe their companies are building effective global leaders, and just 10 per cent said that their leadership-development initiatives have a clear business impact.

McKinsey’s latest research has a similar message: only 11 per cent of more than 500 executives we polled around the globe strongly agreed with the statement that their leadership-development interventions achieve and sustain the desired results.

The 4th Industrial Revolution holds the promise of a new era of globalisation, however, many senior executives remain less prepared than they think they are.

A year ago, Deloitte’s inaugural survey assessing private and public sector readiness for the Fourth Industrial Revolution observed a “tension between hope and ambiguity.”

It found that while executives conceptually understood the profound business and societal changes the 4th Industrial Revolution may bring, they were less certain how they could take action to benefit.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution enables an increasingly globalised world, one in which advanced technologies can drive new opportunities, diverse ideas can be heard, and new forms of communication may come to the fore.

But how are leaders adjusting?

Executives are struggling to develop effective strategies in today’s rapidly changing markets. Faced with an ever-increasing array of new technologies, leaders acknowledged they have too many options from which to choose, and in some cases lack the strategic vision to help guide their efforts.

Organisational influences also challenge leaders as they seek to navigate the 4th Industrial Revolution. Many leaders reported their companies don’t follow clearly defined decision-making processes, and organisational silos limit their ability to develop and share knowledge to determine effective strategies.

Leaders continue to focus more on using advanced technologies to protect their positions rather than as bold investments to drive disruption. Although many of the businesses that have made investments in technology are seeing payoffs, others are finding it difficult to invest even as digital technologies are engendering more global connections and creating new opportunities within new markets and localised economies.

Challenges include being too focused on short-term results and lacking understanding, business cases, and leadership vision.

Leaders acknowledge the ethical implications inherent in new technology, but few companies are talking about how to manage those challenges, let alone actively putting policies in place to do so.

The skills challenge becomes clearer, but so do differences between executives and their millennial workforces.

Last year, most leaders (86%) thought their organizations were doing enough to create a workforce for the 4th Industrial Revolution. This year, as more leaders recognize the growing skills gap, only 47% are confident in their efforts.

On the bright side, twice as many leaders indicate their organisations will do what they can to train their existing employees rather than hire new ones. And they’re more optimistic than last year that autonomous tech will augment, rather than replace, humans.

The journey to get where you are has not been easy. From setting records to surviving recessions, you’ve been there from day one, becoming a leader that’s respected and praised from the board, shareholders and staff.

But somewhere along the way, it all started to change. Now your leadership strategy is getting you nowhere, and you can no longer deny that nagging feeling that something’s just not right.

Recognising that you may not be the best person for the job anymore is incredibly difficult to admit, especially after investing blood, sweat, and tears into the company.
But if that little voice in the back of your head is now shouting at you front and center, it’s a likely scenario that others feel the same way.

Hanging on too long makes you irrelevant. Organisations change. Leaders should change too. You may not be the best person to lead your business forward. The skills that worked yesterday may not work today or tomorrow. Successful leaders know when to move-on. Are your strengths, the right strengths, to lead the organization tomorrow?

How does a leader know when it’s time to step down and hand over the reins?

The most important question a leader should ask is: Are you placing the good of the organisation first? This is what leadership is all about.

Final thought; most CEOs have gotten religion about the impact of accelerating disruption and the need to adapt in response. Time and again, though, we see those same CEOs forgetting about the need to translate strategy into specific organizational capabilities, paying lip service to their talent ambitions, and delegating responsibility to the head of learning with a flourish of fine words, only for that individual to complain later about lack of support from above.

To be fair, CEOs are pulled in many directions, and they note that leadership development often doesn’t make an impact on performance in the short run.

At the same time, we see many heads of learning confronting CEOs with a set of complex interwoven interventions, not always focusing on what matters most.

But as the pace of change for strategies and business models increases, so does the cost of lagging leadership development.

If CEOs and their top teams are serious about long-term performance, they need to commit themselves to the success of corporate leadership-development efforts now.

Chief human-resource officers and heads of learning need to simplify their programs, focusing on what really matters.
As Vince Lombardi, NFL player, coach and executive director once said:

“The leader can never close the gap between himself and the group. If he does, he is no longer what he must be. He must walk a tightrope between the consent he must win and the control he must exert.”

The importance of Purposeful Leadership

We hear a lot about “purposeful” and “purpose-driven” leaders and organisations. But what does that really mean, and does it make a difference?

There’s been considerable interest in the notion of “purposeful” and “purpose-driven” leaders and organisations in recent years, driven by growing levels of distrust and disillusionment with what are often regarded as the short-termism, financial imperatives driving contemporary firms.

Typically, the attributes of purposeful organisations – societal responsibility, values and ethics – are simply translated into the qualities that characterise their ideal leaders. But what type of leaders do purposeful organisations really need?

My definition of a Purposeful Leader is the extent to which a leader has a strong moral self, a vision for his or her team, and takes an ethical approach to leadership marked by a commitment to stakeholders.

Purpose is an aspirational reason for being that inspires and provides a call to action for an organisation, its partners, stakeholders, and society as a whole. Strategic research has consistently shown that purpose enables organisations to perform well in times of volatility. The research joins a growing body of evidence demonstrating that a strong and active purpose raises employee engagement and acts as a unifier, makes customers more loyal and committed to working with you, and helps to frame effective decision making in an environment of uncertainty. The EY Global Leadership Forecast 2018 found that getting purpose right builds organisational resilience and, crucially, improves long-term financial performance.

Independent research from Linkage found connections between purposeful leaders and business results: The companies they led had 2.5 times higher sales growth, four times higher profit growth, five times higher “competitive differentiation and innovation” scores, and nine times higher employee engagement scores. Companies that create lasting leadership impact differentially invest in developing purposeful leaders; and they take concrete steps to assess the organisational dynamics that shape leadership performance.

So exactly what is a Purposeful Business Leaders?

My extensive research into the subject came up with the following structure of what makes a Purposeful Leader:

  •  Purposeful leadership and its constituent components – moral self, commitment to stakeholders and vision – are important in influencing a range of employee outcomes, including intent to quit, job satisfaction, willingness to go the extra mile, sales performance and lower levels of cynicism. Alongside this, ethical leadership approaches also emerge as central for employees’ experience of their work. Employers should consider ways of creating and embedding a purposeful and ethical approach throughout the organisation.
  • Vision is especially important for employees and leaders alike to provide a sense of direction to guide activities. However, multiple or conflicting visions can emerge over time and in different departments or units, causing a sense of confusion and uncertainty, and so organisations should aim for alignment around a set of core themes.
  • There is much that organisations can do to foster an environment conducive to purposeful and ethical leadership; appropriate central policies, leader role-modelling, training and development, and the organisational values and culture can nurture purposeful leaders.
  • Constraints in organisations revolve around time and resource pressures, unrealistic targets, communication errors such as over-communication, remoteness of the centre, and cultural factors such as risk-aversion. When seeking to develop a purposeful approach to leadership, organisations should attend to issues such as these that may sabotage their efforts.
  • Organisations tend to focus on a limited range of stakeholders and discount others from their decision-making. However, this can lead to an imbalance in how the organisation relates to its wider setting. To combat this, organisations can consider strategies such as creating working groups to evaluate the impact of important decisions on a wide range of different stakeholders

So, let’s now move to leadership, my understanding of leadership is that leadership is the ability to motivate groups of people towards a common goal, an incredibly important skill in today’s business world.

Without strong leadership, many otherwise good businesses fail. Understanding the characteristics of strong leaders and cultivating those skills is paramount for those pursuing a career in business.

Many of the world’s most respected leaders have several personality traits in common. Some of the most recognisable traits are the ability to initiate change and inspire a shared vision, as well as knowing how to “encourage the heart” and model the skills and behaviours that are necessary to achieve the stated objectives. Good leaders must also be confident enough in themselves to enable others to contribute and succeed.

Let’s now look at some of the most recognised model leaders from the past:

The Ability to Initiate Change — Franklin D. Roosevelt

Good leaders are never satisfied with the status quo and usually take action to change it. In addition, strong leaders bring about change for the common good by involving others in the process. Roosevelt. sought practical ways to help struggling men and women make a better world for themselves and their children.

His philosophy was, “bold, persistent experimentation…Take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.” Being willing to take risks by trying new ideas and involving others in the process of change is a key quality of strong leaders.

Inspiring a Shared Vision — The Leadership of Martin Luther King

Leaders, through their words and actions, must have the ability to draw others into a common vision by telling others where they intend to go and urging them to join in that vision.

Martin Luther King’s vision of a country free from racial segregation and discrimination, so poignantly expressed in his famous “I have a dream…” speech, exemplifies this critical leadership trait. King had a vision of a better America, and his ability to bring both whites and blacks together to march against segregation changed America profoundly.

Model Leadership — Mohandas K. Gandhi

Strong leaders not only need to have a vision and the ability to initiate change, but they must also model the values, actions, and behaviors necessary to make the vision reality. Gandhi not only created and espoused the philosophies of passive resistance and constructive non-violence, but he also lived by these principles.

According to Indira Gandhi, “More than his words, his life was his message.” By choosing to consistently live and work in a manner that exemplified the values he believed in, Gandhi engendered trust, becoming a role model for others looking to affect change without resorting to violence.

Encouraging the Heart — The Leadership of Winston Churchill

On December 29, 1940, London was hit by one of the largest aerial attacks of World War II. Somehow, St. Paul’s Cathedral survived. Two days later a photo showing a silhouette of the dome of St. Paul’s, surrounded by smoke and flames ran in the paper with a caption that read, “It symbolises the steadiness of London’s stand against the enemy: the firmness of right against wrong.”

Churchill recognized the importance of St. Paul’s as a morale booster. His instructions were clear on that December night, “At all costs, St. Paul’s must be saved.”

Leaders must be able to encourage the hearts of those who share their vision, providing a sense of confident optimism even in the face of enormous difficulties.

Traditional skills have not been supplanted but they now co-exist and very visually have survived with a mix of new factors, in your mind was Franklin D. Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Mohandas K. Gandhi or Winston Churchill a Purposeful Leader?

What is your purpose?

Purpose goes beyond our physical and emotional needs. Being driven by a purpose or a mission contains much more than when we are driven by basic needs for which we set goals that we want to achieve.

When we are driven by purpose, we look for meaning in what we do – ways to create enrichment and happiness in our lives. In that sense, purpose means identifying our reason for being.

Today, many of us increasingly look for our professional lives to provide us with meaning and that is why one of the key tasks of effective leaders is to ignite a deeper sense of purpose in their employees.

Purpose ties the organisation together

When an organisation delivers excellent service, it is because the employees know what they do and why they do it. They simply manage to bring people together for a common cause. That is the backbone of what they do – namely the purpose. It is the job of the organisation and its leaders to provide the employees with meaning and in this context, purpose can be a driving force to achieve the intended results.

Being aligned on the purpose of work and being committed to fulfilling the mission is probably one of the most effective ways to engage both consumers and employees. However, we all know that it is hard enough to find individual purposes in life that creates meaning and motivates us. So how can this be done for a whole organisation with many diverse people?

How to lead with purpose?

When creating an organisational shared purpose the essential questions to ask are:

What is the shared purpose that:

  • Articulates a clear purpose for your organisation. Focus on answering the why questions. We all know what our organisations do. Purpose is about asking why we exist in the first place, what our employees and stakeholders care about, and what resonates with customers.
  • Use purpose as a lens for everything you do. Let purpose guide the solutions you offer, how you treat your customers, and how you engage your workforce.
  • Communicate success stories to all constituents. Stories perpetuate purpose. Each time people repeat them, purpose entwines more closely with day-to-day business.
  • Integrate purpose into the company’s DNA. Reinforce purpose through the day-to-day customer and employee experience. Treat purpose as a commitment to stakeholders and publicly update on its progress.
  • Focus on leaders. Help them develop their own “why.” Work with all leaders to articulate their own purpose as it relates to the overarching purpose for the business. Then, help them do the same for their teams and employees.
  • Develop key skills. Purpose-driven leaders form teams, inspire, and motivate in a fast-changing world. They develop psychological safety and agility.

I have developed the fifth book in a series of books that provides purpose-driven outcomes in support of some of the most talked-about subjects in life today, my book is called ‘Purposeful Discussions’ through the book and its 32 chapters, I take purpose across everything we do; covering emotional intelligence, human to human interaction, human relationships, strategy, government, geopolitics, compliance, regulation, cybercrime with conclusions across life growth, long life learnings, personal development, mentorship and the takeaways that we all need to arm ourselves with over the next 10 years to survive, to co-create a more sustainable future.

https://www.waterstones.com/books/search/term/purposeful+discussions+geoff+hudson+searle

My overall conclusion on Purposeful Business leadership in today’s disruptive world is a balanced view of universal characteristics and traits which has the potential to guide us through years of transformation with optimism and idealism.
The first step to using Purpose is to think about a company direction and Inspire others and thus to begin the personal transition from managing to leading is to understand your own Purpose.

If you aspire to become a leader, you also need to find an organisation that will accommodate your Purpose, only if we set sail on the right course and with smart individuals that make our Purposeful journey, progress, performance will become so much more worthwhile.

Stephen R. Covey once said:

“When you listen with empathy to another person, you give that person psychological air.”

Guest-blog: Roger Phare – The Jekyll, Hyde and The Executive Director

Roger Phare

As an executive director, how do you powerfully lead your organisation through complex challenges? How do you align your organisation, staff, and board around impact and achieve financial sustainability? As daunting as these questions can seem, they are fundamental executive leadership responsibilities.

In spite of its institutional power, the position of an Executive Director remains an immensely demanding one, and not one that any qualified and capable man or woman will agree to lightly.

We welcome back Roger Phare as our guest blogger who is an accomplished Global Executive Director, equipped with a commanding track record over the past 37 years of bringing sound judgement and a strong commercial perspective to IT businesses, from ‘Mainframe to Mobile’. Roger have been fortunate to have been part of the commercial computing lifespan. With a market driven approach, which he has strategically supported, a number of organisations, both at significant Board, Executive and Regional Directorship and responsibilities. An expert in corporate governance and compliance and risk management; enjoying challenging the status quo and providing independent advice to Boards whilst maintaining sound judgment, impartiality and with integrity.

Roger is going to talk to us about ‘Jekyll, Hyde Associates and the Executive Director’

Thank you Geoff, today I would like to discuss the role of the Executive Director, which can arguably be the most individually challenging and changeable of all Board roles. Not that the responsibilities are any greater or less than Non- Executive counterparts, yet the concept of disassociating the “day job” with the Board role can be tricky and take some fortitude. The Executive director must possess or develop the ability to perform separate roles with separate mindsets; a veritable Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde (and maybe other) set of personas.

The majority of companies start from small beginnings. Friends, family or work colleagues decide to set up in business and likely form a limited liability company. Almost invariably they become shareholders, directors and employees overnight. Generally there will be a leader; a chief executive who, more often than not, will also be elected chairman of the board. The other board members are often generalists, providing input based upon their work role experience.

Confusion can set in as the company grows and more employees are taken on board. This is where the understanding of role demarcation is vital. I recall being an executive director on the board of a growing company some years ago when one of my colleagues, who was head of the technical department as well as an executive director/shareholder, threatened to fire the receptionist for an indiscretion.
The receptionist did not report to this individual but his view was that as a major shareholder and director he had the over-riding power and right to make such decisions. He clearly had confused the roles, effectively merging all three responsibilities into one.

In the board room the need to disassociate the individual roles becomes even more apparent. Recalling that a director’s duty is to represent the medium and long-term interests of the shareholders, the double or triple role can be a major challenge. Let’s say that within a growing goods and services company the head of development, one of the founders and a minority shareholder, also sits on the board as an executive director. As a manager doing his day-to-day job, he has put up a business case to employ a number of new staff members within the development team.

At a board meeting, the annual item regarding profit distribution by way of dividends is discussed. The head of development sees this as an ideal forum to lobby for the approval of the business case. This is not say the overall decision will necessarily be wrong; it is that he has unwittingly brought his managerial role into the boardroom.

Once a company goes public, then the appetite for executive director’s wanes considerably. Most Commonwealth countries operate a unitary system, indicating a balanced mix of executive and non-executive directors. Yet over the past twenty years there has been a push for greater board member independence, with a move towards more non-executive directors. The executive directors are often consigned to the roles of chief executive and possibly head of finance.

Yet are we about to see the return of the executive director on public boards? There is no doubt that the need for up to date subject matter knowledge of industry trends is as much a requirement as expertise around governance and compliance. The need for this has started show itself in the rise of the advisory board; yet this can never replace true in-house expertise.

Perhaps we are about to witness the return of our Henry’s and Edward’s; but this time around improved peer mentoring and coaching maybe the answer.

You can contact Roger Phare via LinkedIn. Roger Phare on LinkedIn or by email: roger phare @ gmail .com (remove all spaces)

Guest-blog: Roger Phare – The qualities and experience needed to getting the right advise on the Board

Roger Phare

In the small business world, there is a lot of talk about whether a company should have a Board of Advisors (Advisory Board), and if yes, what the composition of such a group should be. In my time in the small and medium enterprise (SME) world, I have been exposed to and worked with hundreds of companies, a small percentage of which have had a Board of Advisors. Whether having such an advisory group makes sense depends a lot on the business and more importantly, the CEO and senior management team of the business.

In my opinion and I state this with wisdom, one of the smartest growth initiatives a business owner can implement is an advisory board: a hand-selected group of advisors that believe in your leadership, are aligned with your culture and mission, and are committed to your success.

The vast majority of business owners who implement an advisory board fail to see a strong return on investment because they have not followed guidelines to recruiting the right advisors, and have not set them up for success.

Today I have the pleasure of introducing another Guest Blogger, Roger Phare, who is an accomplished Global Executive Director, equipped with a commanding track record over the past 37 years of bringing sound judgement and a strong commercial perspective to IT businesses, from ‘Mainframe to Mobile’. Roger have been fortunate to have been part of the commercial computing lifespan. With a market driven approach, which he has strategically supported, a number of organisations, both at significant Board, Executive and Regional Directorship and responsibilities. An expert in corporate governance and compliance and risk management; enjoying challenging the status quo and providing independent advice to Boards whilst maintaining sound judgment, impartiality and with integrity.

Roger is going to talk to us about the qualities and experience needed to getting the right advise on the Board.

Over recent years we have seen the rise of the Advisory Board concept, a trend that reflects the changing nature of modern organisational leadership and governance. Thinking further on this, the obvious question is why? What has changed in public and private Boardrooms to see such a demand for specialist knowledge and expertise?

The answer perhaps dates back some twenty or even thirty plus years. Up until the late eighties board members generally came with experience related to the company’s market or industry, together with all round leadership and business skills. This had largely been the post war formula, in other words Executive or Non-Executive Directors in 1958 had much the same attributes of those in 1988 – then everything changed.

We had Wall Street, Enron and the Sub-Prime less than twenty years apart. Not co-incidentally, this timeframe was paralleled with the rapid rise of business computing and the internet. Ironically, while technology was an enabler for business growth it became an inhibitor for effective all-round board performance. Directors became much more focussed on financial and legal due diligence as the regulators took control. Boards became largely the keepers of compliance and governance, with their members skilled and qualified in these disciplines. So what happened to the much needed advice in areas such organisational structure and market direction?

Enter the Advisory Board, bringing relevant expertise and experience in key strategic areas.

There is perhaps another reason for the rise of the advisor(s) in the boardroom. Casting the mind back to our pre-1988 Director, past industry experience was a key attribute for the senior board member. Being five to ten years away from a hands-on roles was not a major issue – as business and market fundamentals remained consistent. Today key industries are in rapid growth mode that did not even exist five to ten years ago, with “here and now” expertise required.

So Advisory Boards are most likely here to stay and ideally should complement our incumbent NEDs or Exec Directors; the key is find the right balance and consistency.

You can contact Roger Phare via LinkedIn. Roger Phare on LinkedIn or by email: roger phare @ gmail .com (remove all spaces)

If you can tweet you can become president…

I was recently having a fascinating discussion with a CEO of a technology company around leadership, the weaknesses and social media as the communication link to their image, when the recently elected president of the United States of America came to mind.
It’s bizarre really, but the facts are: Donald Trump is the first Twitter president of the United States of America.

In an interview with Tucker Carlson of Fox News recently, Trump put into words what many people have long been suspecting, that were it not for his mastery of hyperbole in 140 characters, he would not now be occupying the most powerful office on Earth. “Let me tell you about Twitter,” the president began. “I think that maybe I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Twitter.”
Combine together his followers on Twitter and Facebook, Instagram, @Potus and “lots of other things”, Trump said, and he has the combined ability to publish directly to as many as 100 million people.

All jokes aside, whilst the truth maybe the fact that Twitter, Facebook, Instragram @Potus and other platforms may attract his following of interested fans, the question you need to ask yourself is exactly what cost is his presidency costing the United States just as you could question a CEO of a FTSE 100 company that used Social Media to obtain his or her position in the same?

My company is often being approached by executive boards of companies that question their existing leadership decisions in people, it is clear that people love the title of CEO, but do they have or are able to execute the skills to the business that will make the change necessary to drive the company to profitability and growth?

If we take a look at some basic facts:
• We are in the worst economic circumstances we have faced in almost 100 years
• It is forecasted to get worse before we hit bottom
• There are many organizations who have already executed large scale reductions in force and they will be followed by others
• Layoffs, reductions in force, or whatever you want to call them cause anxiety, trauma and lost productivity

Here are some of the facts about poor leadership costing a loss in productivity to American businesses that I found out in an article published at Harvard Business Review

According to one of the workplace reports by Gallup, 50% of the working professionals in US merely put their time in at office, 20% often represent their discontent via missings their days on job, driving customers away or influencing the co-workers in a negative way. Only the remaining 30% are committed towards their work. What’s the reason behind it? ‘poor leadership’.

In fact, while researching for their book ‘Leading People’, the authors Rosen and Brown came up with the findings that the current state of poor leadership is costing more than half of their human potential to the American companies.

The numbers are self-explanatory as to how much does poor leadership cost a business in terms of productivity.

Loss of human resources
Loss of human resources does not only mean the employees leaving the organisation. Well, that’s the ultimate loss, but a big loss is when the employees are not being used as per their full potential.

Poor resource management is one of the key tell tales of weak leadership, that can bring a downfall for the company. No matter how experienced and expert your resources are, if they are not utilised rightfully they are not going to benefit the business. This will ultimately lead to loss of resources, more so it will bring the loss of your company.

Successful leadership is all about having the right people, with the right abilities, in the right place, at the right time!

Loss of revenues
According to the same report by Gallup that was mentioned in the second point it has been found that poor leadership alone costs American companies a loss of more than half a trillion dollar each year.

According to the Cost of Poor Leadership Calculator created by DDI, a leading firm that conducts corporate researches, it was found out that one poor leader costs leadership around $126,000 over just one year owing to loss of productivity, and employee turnover issues.

Corporations are victims of the great training robbery. American companies spend enormous amounts of money on employee training and education $160 billion in the United States and close to $356 billion globally in 2015 alone, but they are not getting a good return on their investment. For the most part, the learning doesn’t lead to better organisational performance, because people soon revert to their old ways of doing things.

In another survey The Conference Board CEO Challenge®, more than 1,000 respondents indicated that human capital remains their top challenge, with customer relationships rising in importance in the past two years. Also, operational excellence and innovation remain vitally important for driving business growth and ensuring a sustainable future. These challenges, albeit in varying order, were the top challenges in all four regions included in the survey: the United States, Latin America, Europe, and Asia.

When asked about the strategies to address the human capital challenge, 4 of the top 10 strategies CEOs selected are focused on leadership: improve leadership development programs, enhance the effectiveness of senior management teams, improve the effectiveness of frontline supervisors and managers, and improve succession planning. CEOs know their organisations cannot retain highly engaged, high-performing employees without effective leaders who can manage, coach, develop, and inspire their multigenerational, globally dispersed, and tech-savvy teams.

CEOs also were asked to identify the leadership attributes and behaviors most critical to success as a leader. The top five prominent in every region globally were:
• Retaining and developing talent.
• Managing complexity.
• Leading change.
• Leading with integrity.
• Having an entrepreneurial mind-set.

So how can leadership improve?
First, leadership capability efforts are not necessarily hardwired to business strategy. This will always lead to initiatives that are disconnected and inconsistent across the organisation, diluting the overall focus on the core leadership behaviors to cultural and business change.

Without properly aligning current leadership capability against business goals, you miss the opportunity to identify key gaps, running the risk of focusing on the wrong things.

Second, almost all of the focus is on quality of content; how well we execute takes a back seat. This becomes even more difficult when you are trying to scale efforts across the enterprise or across different countries and cultures. According to the Corporate Leadership Council, one-third of a leadership program’s success is related to content and two-thirds are determined by the quality of the implementation.

Finally, despite the best of intentions, many efforts produce no lasting change in terms of behavior and results. Don’t be drawn in by the hype of five-minute videos and digitized options. This type of learning can be engaging, but like a quick-fix diet, they don’t work.
Failure to examine the big data and analytics to help understand (and react to) the gap between existing leadership practices and proven value to the business is a detriment to leadership development efforts. Too often we are still content with the smile sheets and anecdotal data. To be effective, we all need data-driven analyses to execute informed decision-making processes and in real time.

This video on Leadership in the 21st Century and Global Forces by Dominic Barton, Global Managing Partner of McKinsey & Company, will give you another prospective to global and growing trends in ‘Global Leadership’ – The Darden Leadership Speaker Series kicks-off its 2016-17 season with Dominic Barton.

Talking with my business partner in the US, Mark Herbert, we created a check list of priorities that should be considered when making change, which include:
• Leadership development has long been viewed as a cost. It is an investment in your leaders and your business.
• The program is not adopted across the enterprise. If you do not predict and act on issues across geographies and cultures, there will be no consistency and implementation will not succeed.
• Development is seen as an isolated training event or the “initiative of the month.” That’s ineffective if you’re trying to achieve lasting behavior and change. Reinforce learning and sustain the momentum by investing energy and resources to diagnose your leaders and guide them through a targeted journey of experiences.

Marcus Buckingham, author of ‘First Break All the Rules’ and other management “bibles” stated:

“Today’s most respected and successful leaders are able to transform fear of the unknown into clear visions of whom to serve, core strengths to leverage and actions to take. They enable us to pierce the veil of complexity and identify the single best vantage point from which to examine our complex roles. Only then can we take clear, decisive action.”

More management, more leaders or are we failing in business?

I always travel once a year to my business partner in the US and we always have this debate over “you can train and educate an individual into being management”, but I have always maintained you “cannot train a leader”: leadership is in your DNA or not, and I believe leadership is something that passionately is in your blood, the route of success in any business is with the strength of its leadership, so the question that I am always engage within these days with groups is why is there so much management, why do we have a shortage of competent and strong leaders?

Some of the readership will remember a blog I wrote in 2014, “Middle Management or Strong Managers”: here.

My views are not only individual if you read Chapter 7 of John Bogle’s book ‘Enough: True Measures of Money, Business and Life’. The theme of management versus leadership is a familiar one and the distinctions that Bogle makes are based on some fairly standard and familiar definitions. To clarify the distinguishing features, Bogle quotes Professor Bennis as follows: ‘The manager administers, the leader innovates’ … ‘The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust; the manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective; the manager accepts the status quo, the leader challenges it.’

Clearly the need for leadership is as strong if not stronger in IT as it is in the world of finance and business with which Bogle is primarily concerned.

These calls have been made consistently over a long period of time now by a large number of business gurus, life coaches and consultants, but still the landscape remains patchy in my experience. For every good piece of leadership, I see, where teams are given clear direction and empowered to operate effectively, I see examples of micro-management where managers are insistent on predetermining the activities, tasks and man-day estimates and then badgering the team to report their success in following this predetermined plan.

A great leader will possess qualities like passion, integrity, a take charge attitude and the ability to inspire others. Employers and executives recognise this, and these “born leaders” are often first in line for promotions to leadership roles.

But people with leadership potential have never simply become leaders overnight. To co-exist as a leader, existing leaders have a responsibility to train the next generation, showing them how to guide a group of people toward a specific vision or goal, which in this new digital era of automation, robot and in some exception non-verbal communication – a particularly difficult challenge to overcome.
The challenge is that we live in a world where never before has leadership been so necessary but where so often leaders seem to come up short. Our sense is that this is not really a problem of individuals; this is a problem of organisational structures, effectively those traditional pyramidal structures that demand too much of too few and not enough of everyone else.

So here we are in a world of amazing complexity and complex organisations that just require too much from those few people up at the top. They do not always have the intellectual diversity, the bandwidth, the time to really make all these critical decisions. There is always a reason that, so often in organisations, change is belated, it is infrequent, it is convulsive.

My thoughts are still that the dilemma is one of complex company organisation, it’s growth, as fast as the environment is changing, there are just not enough extraordinary leaders to go around, something that I have majored on with my new book “Meaningful Conversations“. Look at what we expect from a leader today. We expect somebody to be confident and yet humble. We expect them to be very strong in themselves but open to being influenced. We expect them to be amazingly prescient, with great foresight, but to be practical as well, to be extremely bold and also prudent.

So, can organisations develop real leaders that can make a difference to business and create value?

My belief is that emotional intelligence (EI) is going to be a huge key component of effective and developed leadership. The ability to be perceptively in tune with yourself and your emotions, as well as having sound situational awareness can be a powerful tool for leading a team. The act of knowing, understanding, and responding to emotions, overcoming stress in the moment, and being aware of how your words and actions affect others, is fundamental for growth. Emotional intelligence for leadership consists basically of these five attributes: self-awareness, self-management, empathy, relationship management, and effective communication.

The business world is evolving and changing at unprecedented speed in a very unconnected human world, emotions and our day to day communications are becoming a much more important aspect of working relationships. Having emotional intelligence increases your chances of being more accepted on teams and considered for leadership positions. It can also set you apart from the competition when seeking a new position or promotion.

Sharing information is critical, but it is substantially less than half the battle. You must communicate clearly about the organisation’s strategy, speed, direction, and results. But you cannot stop there. Verbally and nonverbally, the way in which you communicate – humbly, passionately, confidently – has more impact than the words you choose.

As a leader, you must inspire others through your words and actions. And before you speak, make sure you listen and observe; knowing your audience is as important as the message you’re delivering. Communication informs, persuades, guides, and assures, as well as inspires. You must be willing to reveal more of yourself, to let others see your soul. If you withdraw, you will undermine your effectiveness as a leader, and your followers may soon drift to the side lines.

In summary, clear communication is the most important key to a business leader’s success. So, to grow as a leader and manager, you must learn how to be an effective, compelling communicator. And if you want your company to succeed, you and your team have to master the art of clear communication together, as well. By using these and other strategies, you and your employees can reach new levels of leadership excellence.

Rick Pitino, once said:

“Technology is a compulsive and addictive way to live. Verbal communication cannot be lost because of a lack of skill. The ability to listen and learn is key to mastering the art of communication. If you don’t use your verbal skills and networking, it will disappear rapidly. Use technology wisely.”

Guest blog post for Alium Partners

The Financial District in London, UK. Photograph by Geoff Searle.
The Financial District in London, UK. Photograph by Geoff Searle.

My first guest blog post has been published with Alium Partners. It was an amazing writing experience and I cannot thank them enough for hosting me.

Alium Partners has provided senior executives into a variety of organisations across the UK and around the world, for over 10 years.

Working across both the private sector and public sector, the team at Alium Partners consist of a variety of sector and functional led professionals who work collaboratively to identify the right recruitment solutions for their clients from a talent pool of over 10,000 skilled professionals.

As always, if you have any questions, please contact me. I will gladly help.

Have a successful week!