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Tough times require extraordinary leaders

6 October, 2008

Tough times require extraordinary leaders

Times may be tough, but that's no excuse for poor business leadership - indeed, it's even more important now than it is in a less challenging environment, says business coach Pete Clark.

Clark told 100 participants at a RogenSi business seminar that everywhere in the world, people were saying times were tough and businesses were asking more of their employees. "In challenging times, you are asking your staff to do what they normally do and to stretch that little bit more."

But leaders could not ask that of their staff unless they were prepared to do it themselves.

"Especially in tough times, as leaders we need to be the ones that are living, breathing examples of being able to stretch and stand up and be accountable for everything we are asking everyone else to do," Clark said. When employees saw that their leaders were striving to be extraordinary, they were more likely to do so themselves.

One of the mistakes people made was to think improved performance was a result of working on areas of weakness, Clark said. But actually, it came from focusing on key strengths and becoming even better at them.

No leader could be good at everything, so "trying to be a superhero isn't going to work".

Instead, by focusing on and improving their key strengths, great leaders made the power of perception work for them.

International research showed that leaders who were perceived by staff to have no area of extraordinary strength, but no glaring weaknesses, were in the 34th percentile of performance.

However leaders who staff perceived as having just one extraordinary strength jumped to above the 60th percentile of performance. And great leaders were able to improve measures for staff turnover, customer satisfaction and employee engagement beyond what even good leaders could achieve.

"Good does not equal great, especially in tough times," said Clark. "A lot of people are satisfied with being good enough, whereas if they focused on being great, the results would be significant.

The key skills that defined great leadership were a focus on results, personal capability, the ability to lead change, interpersonal skills and, above all else, character, said Clark.

"As a leader, you make a difference, whether or not you believe you make a difference. The business is performing because of you. So if the business isn't quite performing, you are accountable for this. If you step up, there's more chance your staff will do so."

The way to achieve that was to focus on one or two key areas of leadership strength, and work at becoming great, not just good, Clark said. That effort would show up in business results.

"The opposite of courage is not cowardice, the opposite of courage is conformity. Right now, the environment requires courage from us."


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