Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Strong leadership is vital for improving productivity and profits

"It is seldom that topics as wide-ranging as anti-ageing drugs, radio frequency identification, carbon trading, consumer behaviour and corporate leadership form part of a single presentation, and even less often that such a presentation is coherent.
But Patrick Dixon, a UK-based consultant and author who held a seminar in Singapore yesterday, manages to do it. Yet for all his mention of cutting-edge technologies, he boils leadership down to plain old common sense.
'It's an ancient truth about human beings that they want to feel like they matter, but it is so profoundly ignored,' Dr Dixon said in an interview.
Strong leadership is central to improving profits and productivity and crucial to attracting talent. Building a good team is in turn critical and indeed 'the best way' to manage risks in a fast-changing world.
Dr Dixon, who has advised Microsoft, IBM, UBS, Siemens and others on the strategic implications of future trends, said he has examined speeches by world leaders like M K Gandhi, Mao Zedong, Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler and that 'all leadership speeches have a similar structure'.
This is loosely along the lines of: Follow me, because together I believe we can build a better future for us, our family and friends, and not only those we care for but for humankind.
That some of these leaders used this motivational technique to commit atrocities only demonstrates its seductive power, which derives not from an appeal to naked self-interest but to a collective sense of purpose, or a 'higher moral principle', said Dr Dixon.
He gave the example of a pharmaceutical manager who wants to motivate staff to develop new packaging for their drugs - young children are finding it too easy to open, while the elderly are finding it too difficult.
It is easier to motivate team members if you can help them identify with the purpose for better packaging, such as that children might poison themselves, or that older folks might be struck down by heart attacks before they can get to their medicine.
'People will only follow you if they think you know where you're going and they think where you're going is important,' he said.
Most senior executives understand this but do not realise that their communications to staff are often bogged down in rhetoric about shareholder value and returns on equity.
Dr Dixon offers an exercise - imagine explaining what you do to a 10-year-old child in under two minutes and in a way that gets them excited about the job. "

Extract from article in Business Times Singapore

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