Leadership Influence Focuses on Leadership in Challenging Times

Aabha Gandhi, Staff Writer
Al-Watan Daily Newspaper, Kuwait
Published on: Thursday, June 18th, 2009

These are challenging times for business across the world. Be it the bankruptcy of the General Motors and Chrysler or the debt issue of the Investment Dar and Global Investment House in Kuwait, no one country has been spared for the economic downturn. Hence surviving in business is more challenging today than it was a few years ago.

These are testing times for leaders as well. Not only do they need to put their businesses back on track they also need to keep their teams motivated.

Leaders Enterprises recently hosted a three day workshop titled “Leadership Influence – Leadership in challenging times.” While the company has been organizing leadership seminars for the past five years, Khalid AlـZanki, CEO of Leaders Enterprises, said: “This seminar was customized in such a way on how to deal with leadership in challenging times. How they (leaders can) communicate in these tough time with their team members with their colleagues and with team leaders across the organization.”

The workshop was held with Corporate Consultant/Speaker/Trainer/Coach Tom McCarthy. AlـZanki and McCarthy were speaking exclusively with Al Watan Daily.

Explaining his role in the three day seminar McCarthy said: “My part is about winning leadership in challenging time. It was probably 80 percent new from what I have taught in the past and not that what I have taught in the past doesn’t work, but this is first of all newest research. Also it is more challenging times.” McCarthy was on his 11th visit to Kuwait.

Six New Leadership Styles

Today no one leadership strategy or style can be used across the board. While one style is needed for one particular situation, 10 minutes later an absolutely different approach or leadership style maybe needed. “Research shows that best leaders in the world use six different styles. They don’t use one style to get results,” he said.

McCarthy explained that each leadership style will have its benefit and detriments. Explaining the six different leadership styles, McCarthy said: “There are six styles and one of them is called the corrosive style. That one you don’t use very often, that is used only in crisis situation, a problem employee. That’s where you are direct and saying: “Look here’s the way we need to do it, so please get it done right now.” He said this style leaders don’t want to use often because it could to have a negative impact on the team over time. “In a short period of time when there is crisis it can be good.”

“Another leadership style is democratic style, where you ask for opinions from your different team members. When you use that style people feel included, you get fresh ideas. The problem with the democratic style is if you are not smart with it, it can lead to meeting after meeting,” he said.

However to work your way around this style, McCarthy said was to clearly state at the start of the meeting that a decision must be reached by the end of the meeting.

The third leadership is style is the visionary style. Here McCarthy explained that the leader creates a strong compelling vision and some goals and communicate it accordingly to the team. “Then it’s up to the team to find a way to achieve those goals. The leader doesn’t tell the team member everything to do, (but) gives them the big picture and motivates them to work. So, that works when you have a good highly motivated team,” he said. However the detriment in this style is that if the team is not experienced and they don’t know what they are doing, “then that is not going to work too well,” he pointed out.

“Another leadership style is people first style, where you give a praise to team member, it’s very good because it creates harmony, good feelings amongst people, creates high loyalty,” he said. However the challenge according to McCarthy with this style is that if the leader does not give constructive criticism then sometimes “people get away with poor performance,” he said.

The fifth style is the coaching style. McCarthy explained that in this style the leaders are not looking at short term results but they are training the team for the long term. However the negative to this style is that the speed in which the work can be done will come down. “So, the downfall with coaching style is, you may not get an immediate result but you build leaders,” he said.

The sixth leadership style is the pace-setting style. “Leaders set high standards and then they set the example by following those standards and then they ask their people to do just as I do, that’s good as you are setting a high standard you are setting the standard. But, sometimes the pay setting standard leader doesn’t have a high tolerance, so when someone doesn’t do it right, they immediately replace that person and say I will do it myself, so that is the potential downfall.,” he said.

Khalid AlـZanki pointed out that the response to the three day seminar has been great.

Are Kuwaiti Businesses Adapting These Styles?

Asked if businesses in Kuwait are adapting any of the six leadership styles, AlـZanki stated that most companies are still facing the financial slowdown and have been cutting costs. He pointed out that it is in these times that training becomes extremely crucial. “Some of the people are not just trying to change their strategies but are trying to do multiple things at the same time and trying to find a target where they can move out of this bottleneck. As you have seen big companies declaring bankruptcy, small businesses closing and shutting down people are struggling. People have lost jobs, so far 4000 Kuwaitis working in the private sector have lost jobs, other people in other organizations on a weekly basis are laying of 10-15 people, so they are working in the office, their phone rings and hopefully it is not the HR department.”

“How will the performance be of those employees who worry all day that they may get a call saying we don’t need you anymore in the organization. The challenge is most of them (businesses) do not have a visionary style of leadership,” AlـZanki said.

Challenging Times For Leaders?

McCarthy explained handling emotions in these tough times has become more critical than ever before. “People have so much stress in their lives. Most people have not been good at that recently, we talked about that.”

The expert pointed out that “You cannot lead others until you can lead yourself.”

He said leaders need to understand that their teams are not going to be any more motivated than they are. “It’s hard work to motivate yourself everyday and increase your emotional intelligence, but it is a work a leader has to do it, in order to be able to lead their people but when a leader goes in with confidence, even though they are facing a tough situation they can raise their team members confidence and when they do that and use the right leadership style their team performs at a high level, they get results,” McCarthy said.

Interestingly AlـZanki pointed out that he had not heard of companies adopting any of these strategies “If you go to any organization and install a leadership agent inside each organization and try to figure out what is going on you will see totally the opposite of what Tom is trying to share with the people over here.”

McCarthy said in the audience only 20 percent had actually heard of emotional intelligence while most of them did not know. “So hopefully with the group we’ve had, they will start implementing it here in Kuwait and then we can start going up from there,” he said.

More Opportunities In Crisis

It is well known that crisis situations always create more opportunities. McCarthy said that despite all the negative noises around it motivates leaders to try things they had not thought of a year ago. “In spite of the bad news, there are opportunities that we miss every single day and so it’s hard work as you have to keep focusing and being creative, doing things you would have never done a year ago.”

“That’s the good thing though about tough times, it makes you more creative if you embrace it. You start to think about things you use to take for granted. You start figuring out ways to do things to do better or most cost effectively when before you didn’t have to. Once you do that then you create another breakthrough and then another breakthrough,” he said.

Explaining the challenges he faced while organizing this seminar, AlـZanki said that he did a quick survey with his clients to figure out if March was a good time to organize this seminar. AlـZanki said that most of his clients suggested that he wait until the end of May.

“So, since in March there was no activity going on, people said go with end of May to June and we did it. I worked with Tom in building up the content and a few people came and said leadership again. We convinced them that this is leadership in challenging times, different content and recent research,” AlـZanki said.

Optimistic For 2009

AlـZanki’s hard work did pay off. He said the best investment in recession is to invest right now. “You need someone to give you the right strategy and advice. (Coaching experts can) give you a different perspective on the challenges you (leaders) are facing, because most of the people don’t listen to others. You have to listen to people around you, you have to open up, and maybe a small idea you take can improve to become a better idea. ”

“Leaders enterprises survived because we changed our strategy,” he said.

Like previous times it will be a small minority of leaders that will be able to take their businesses to the next level. “We are not trying to create average leaders they will survive. It’s the great leaders that take their team and do special things in challenging times. Unfortunately most leaders will wait till the upturn happens and then they will be a little more positive, optimistic and hopeful. But we want these people to be ahead of the curve, we want them to be leading the upturn and not waiting for the upturn,” he concluded.

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