In his article, “The Purpose-Driven Business School,” Dan LeClair, executive vice president and chief operating officer of management education accreditation entity AACSB International says, “Today’s global challenges—whether they are about economics, health, or environment—require the kind of innovation that comes from knowledgeable, capable business leaders, and effective organizations…. quality management education can play a significant role in helping people lead, manage, and organize to address major challenges.”
Be it formal training through a business school, whose primary purpose is to have significant impact on communities and commerce via its alumni, or through on-the-job training, an epic leader is one whose success is based on capital ROI, i.e., both the number of people they empower to excel personally and professionally and their ability to make a company profitable. After all, the financial success of any company is not just based on product quality, usefulness, demand, or the sales exchange. The financial success of a company is based on the service experience provided to internal and external customers.
Priorities determine progress, and decisions determine destiny, so it follows that an epic leader would strive to consistently do the following to ensure success:
1. Be excellent. Prioritize people over products. It is amazing how much morale is improved when the focus becomes who more than what. Employees are the first customers and the stakeholders with the greatest investment. In order to be profitable, an organization needs good people to do great things. Since organizations are comprised of people who sell to people, word of mouth warrants the shift in focus.
2. Be excellent. Be generous. ‘Lagniappe’ is a popular saying in Louisiana and Mississippi that translates to “a little bit extra” and is exemplified by adding a bonus to a purchase. There is nothing more insulting than protesting a $1.75 raise for “worker bees” who invest hours of effort, talent, creativity, and resources to ensure a company’s success while simultaneously approving a multi-million dollar raise with a bonus for the CEO who would fail to turn a profit without worker bees–namely those in customer service, administrative professionals, security, and facilities management or operations.
3. Be excellent. Be accurate. Trust improves exponentially with accuracy. People take notice and respond positively when you major in the minor things. NOTE: This does not give you permission to nitpick. It is a nod to being mindful to avoid mistakes and being quick to acknowledge and correct mistakes in a timely manner.
4. Be excellent. Anticipate needs and wants. Generously fulfill needs and wants such that you make a memorable experience for those in your employ and beyond. NOTE: Experiential marketers have a knack for making memorable experiences.
5. Be excellent. Be kind. Actions speak louder than words. If you do not genuinely care about people, it will show. Don’t use your lack of concern for others as an excuse to defer to HR or a direct report in order to be personable. The mindset and attitude of the staff stems from leaders. Company culture is also defined by the collective personalities of those in leadership. If being ethical, opting for diversity, and being community-oriented are PR buzzwords for your organization, yet behind closed doors, the board, executive committee, or the C-suite’s agenda is contrary to the company’s public-facing stance, people will know it and you will have a hard time proving otherwise.
6. Be excellent. Develop character. It is a time-tested fact that the people in your circle or on your level will not keep you honest. Getting to know and working closely with those in your employ, and on your team is the fastest way to build character. Developing character includes having integrity, discernment, compassion, and emotional intelligence.
7. Be excellent. Redefine HR. HR cannot represent employees and the company at the same time without creating a conflict of interest. If the purpose of the HR department is limited to mitigating legal risks, managing medical, retirement, and other benefits, and promoting wellness, HR will always miss fulfilling its purpose: relating to humans (not managing commodities). Risk is effectively mitigated at the management level (see #5) with HR guidance and support. Health and wellness are the outcomes of positive human relations (usually with managers and coworkers).
8. Be Excellent. Improve skills. Gone are the days when managers and leaders rely on staff to cover incompetence. From the employee’s perspective, a leader’s lack of skill masked by “lack of time to accomplish” is an excuse to delegate work without fair compensation. Giving credit to the team for covering incompetence creates resentment. If a task is within your scope of work then set aside time to master the task. A leader’s willingness to learn leads to trust and respect. It also fosters reciprocity.
Says LeClair, “Management is like golf—you don’t have to be a professional to get better, or want to get better at it. And you don’t have to coach a Ryder Cup team to make a difference through the sport.” Management is also like the Olympic Games. Even though there is an “i” in win, when athletes stand for the medal ceremony, the national anthem is played and the country flag is flown. Epic leaders practice and therefore excel. They bring out the best in others. Epic leaders promote the team–not self. Even when they do not win a prize, epic leaders don’t fail the trial.
SIDEBAR: People do business with people who they like and they trust!
Due to a lack of emotional intelligence, also known as EQ, and ethics, organizations tend to retain a collection of lousy middle and senior managers who cover for each other. Unless the conduct of one or the collective leads to a lawsuit or PR crisis, a culture of lousiness reigns more often than not, leaving good employees feeling lousy for not being “team players,” about the lack of room for growth, the stress caused by office politics, and about workplace bullying.
Note to self: The best way to make lousy look good is to make ‘good’ look lousy!
Exclusion limits opportunities for a good employee to contribute more, to lead, be promoted, and therefore advance financially. Recompense is usually realized long after the damage has been done or the employee resigns. This lack of human relations, revealed by signs of employee apathy, is a raised flag. Consider the following: Loyalty is not defined by likability and trust is easily diminished by self-ambition.
Isha Edwards (Marketing & Leadership) – an idea catalyst for individuals and organizations across 12 industries including music, media, fashion, film, academia, professional services, nonprofit, and STEM. Through EPiC Measures http://www.epicmeasures.com/, Isha provides brand-driven marketing consultingand business development services.