What do brazilian executives think about leadership?

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A synthesis of the empirical, qualitative data research conducted with large Brazilian company executives.
By Anderson de Souza Sant’Anna, Marly Sorel Campos and Samir Lofti Vaz. (Vale Leadership Development Core)

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What do brazilian executives think about leadership?

  1. 1. GESTÃO ESTRATÉGICA DO SUPRIMENTO E O IMPACTO NO DESEMPENHO DAS EMPRESAS BRASILEIRAS WHAT DO BRAZILIAN EXECUTIVES THINK ABOUT LEADERSHIP? A synthesis of the empirical, qualitative data research conducted with large Brazilian company executives. By Anderson de Souza Sant’Anna, Marly Sorel Campos and Samir Lofti Vaz. (Vale Leadership Development Core) This study allows the identification of the main “effective leader” attributes from the viewpoint of the executives interviewed. Four leadership styles were defined for this purpose: the people-oriented leader, the visionary leader, the mobilizing leader, and the ambivalent leader. To derive this synthesis, the main themes and challenges associated to contemporary management were identified, and grouped in three main key dimensions: Meanings, Competences, Styles & challenges associated to contemporary Leadership; Leadership Development; and Leadership and the Enabling Context. 1. CONTEMPORARY LEADERSHIP MEANINGS, COMPETENCES, STYLES & CHALLENGES The first category among those observed concerns the meanings conferred upon the word, leadership, and what involves leadership performance attributes, styles, functions and challenges. Reports indicate myriad competence attributes associated to the leader persona in the current context: Capability to take over; Curiosity, Capability of handling mistakes; Capability to inspire and creating a shared vision; Credibility; Pioneering; Steadfast stance; Discipline and equilibrium; Systems view, Capability to delegate functions; Negotiation capabilities; Aggregating capabilities; Capability to align interests; Risk-taking capability; Optimism and good humor; Capability to deal with people. Notably, these attributes ensue from indications by people who hold different views of what are the “effective leader’s” characteristics. No consensus was found, however, concerning what leadership in itself indeed represents. At any rate, similarities and/or complementarities are found in many of the attributes reported by different respondents. Eventually, these attributes could be grouped in four sets, representing leadership styles quite akin to those preconized by Blake and Mouton (1964) and Kouzes and Posner (1997), as per Table 1. AUTHORS’ OBJECTIVES: 1. To investigate the meanings attributed to and leadership styles articulated with the experience and practice of the investigated executives. 2. To investigate key themes to leadership development in the current business and organizational context. 3. To identify contemporary trends, new themes and challenges underlying the leadership theme. FE1201
  2. 2. 2What do Brazilian executives think about leadership? Table 1 MAIN LEADERSHIP STYLES ACCORDING TO EXECUTIVES SURVEYED Leadership style Main leadership attributes People-oriented leader Knowing how to deal with people, how to handle mistakes, being an aggregator Visionary leader Having a holistic, long-term view, being a pioneer, being curious, being a mobilizer Mobilizing leader Knowing how to align interests, being a mobilizer, having good negotiation skills Conciliatory leader Maintaining discipline and composure, having a steadfast stance, knowing how to deal with people, having good negotiation skills Source: Research Data In Table 1, the categories arrayed in the left side column represent the main behaviors adopted by the leaders, which they consider to be perceived by their followers. The right side column shows the attributes more commonly associated to the reported leadership styles. Notably, the indicated leadership attributes cannot be defined as unique to a single leadership style. In other words, a “mobilizer leader” can be recognized for his “steadfast stance”, or a “visionary” can have “good negotiation skills”. At any rate, people-oriented leaders are those who concentrate upon the relationships with their followers, engaging in dialogue and providing constant feedback. The interaction between both is trust-based. Besides the willingness to deal with people, these leaders understand that all people are liable to make mistakes. The visionary leadership style, in turn, analyzes different perspectives and trends existing in the organization’s internal and external environment to develop a clear view of where to go. This view orientates the followers’ actions, but since if tends to anticipate trends breaching from the status quo ante, leaders should motivate followers and have good convincing abilities. In many cases, the establishment of this vision depends on the leader’s pioneering efforts and curiosity. The mobilizing leadership style is recognized for prompting followers with different interests to share common objectives. This leader will perform to inspire people to act; he is therefore action-oriented. He envisions negotiation as a means of galvanizing people in the quest for results. It is dependent, therefore, of his great convincing abilities. Finally, conciliatory leaders will reconcile the people orientation with the quest for results. This requires discipline and equilibrium to resort to his good relationship skills in favor of negotiation and their followers’ performance review. In many cases, this process requires leaders to adopt a steadfast stance. The four leadership stances emerging from the interviews demonstrate the importance of new leadership attributes. After all, the leader “should change as organizational requirements and people preferences evolve”. Some of these requirements, however, also impose new challenges, as highlighted in Table 2. Once these main challenges are defined, it becomes essential, therefore, to prepare these leaders to act in different geographic and cultural contexts, capable of coexisting with and assimilate different values and cultures. This requirement, associated with the highly dynamic and complex nature of today’s world, requires attributes such as sensitivity for quick decision-making, albeit based upon “signals” emanating from the environment and followers. There is an expectation that “closer leaders” be developed, that is, those who have the ability to relate to people and establish multiple relationship networks. Teamwork and project development capabilities represent another, highly emphasized competence heard during interview reports. In this sense, the consideration that it should be “incumbent upon the leader to ensure the complementarity of competences and the diversity of team members’ characteristics” is notable. Moreover, the leader should be capable of leading “teams of followers” built for myriad purposes, including many different professional profiles.
  3. 3. 3FDC Executive New Leadership Challenges Developing leaders capable of dealing with cultural diversity. Building and developing high-diversity teams. Developing relationship networks. Leading amidst complexity. Table 2. 2. LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT Another theme approached by executives concerns values, experiences and relationships capable of influencing the leadership development process. Although many leadership characteristics are indicated to be innate, a few of the respondents noted the contribution made by the first experiences in the social-familiar environment as fundamental to the leadership formation process. The personae of parents, professors and close relatives take the role of supporting this direction for the identification or as models to structure the leadership imaginary. It was also found that not all innate and/or acquired leadership characteristics are adherent to the working experiences, considered by the executives as important moments for value and knowledge deconstruction and resignification. In such processes, the main references are the personae of immediate superiors, directors, or presidents of successful companies to whom they were personally linked or even public individuals, such as governmental leaders. To this is to be added the understanding by the responding executives that the development of leadership skills is a continuous process, permanently coping with gaps and barriers to be overcome. The priority given to routine (managerial) activities, for example, is indicated as a hurdle against the construction of an organizational ambiance that favors the development and application of skill attributes that are more germane to the exercise and development of leadership. Other obstacles are time constraints for continual learning actions and to participate in programs and activities that will encourage the development of new leadership attributes. Besides, there is a demand for still scantily consolidated leadership attributes. 3. LEADERSHIP AND ENABLING CONTEXTS Besides analyzing leadership from the viewpoint of the leader persona and his relationship with their teams of followers, executives also analyzed the theme through organizational lenses, as concerns organizational culture and internal environment and their implications upon leadership development. In the same vein, management policies and practices capable of encouraging the construction of enabling contexts, more akin to the contemporary notion of leadership, were also approached. The importance attributed to the dissemination of the company’s strategy and business vision is also notable. Many reports indicate this factor as a fundamental element to the leadership process, to the extent that people feel more motivated by the process and attribute greater meaning to their work and role in the organization. For respondents, a core attribution of contemporary leadership. Is to ensure the inclusion of people in the strategic formulation processes with encouragement to an effectively participatory management. Thispractice,initself,contributestowardtheestablishment of an organizational culture that favors strategic thinking, sharing information, knowledge and values that are fundamental to the renewal and transformation processes continually required of today’s organizations and ensuing from the current business context, and reported by the respondents. At the same time, this process is indicated to be an important element for leadership development, upon providing greater engagement and autonomy to explore opportunities related to the internal and external environments. FINAL CONSIDERATIONS Respondents highlighted aspects such as the following, as leadership challenges within the current context: •• developing leaders capable of dealing with cultural diversity; •• establishing and developing high-diversity teams; •• developing relationship networks and leading amidst complexity.
  4. 4. 4What do Brazilian executives think about leadership? Another challenge concerns values, experiences and relationships to be built and shared by the leader, such as to positively influence the leadership development process. Besides leadership analysis from the viewpoint of the leader persona and his relationships with teams of followers, the emphasis attributed to the relevance of culture and the construction of enabling contexts, such as to allow the support of leadership attraction, development and retention processes. Concerning this aspect, the authors also found a concern with dealing with new generations, especially the so- called Generation Y, which will soon take up key positions in organizations due to the retirement of baby-boomers. In summary, the perceptions and reflections extraction in this study allow the creation of subsidies – from the viewpoint of actors directly involved in the leadership issue in the business context – to deepen the debate and also to establish new agendas and research lines into this theme. The full article can be found at the Vale Leadership Development Core, at www.fdc.org.br/pt/pesquisa/lideranca/paginas/publicacoes.aspx

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