Developing Outstanding Leadership - Human Capital Feb 2009
36 humanCapital I DECEMBER 2008
Developing Outstanding &
High Performance Leadership
By Prof Sattar Bawany
s companies strive to search for and develop talent,
there is considerable debate on what separates a leader
from the rest of the corporate pack. Are leadership
qualities intrinsic to an individual or can they be taught,
developed and nurtured over time?
Leadership is defined as an influence relationship among
leaders and followers who intend real changes and outcomes that
reflect their shared purposes. Thus leadership involves people in
a relationship, influence, change, a shared purpose, and taking
personal responsibility to make things happen. Most of us are
aware of famous leaders, but most leadership that changes the
world starts small and may begin with personal frustrations about
events that prompt people to initiate change and inspire others
to follow them.
Organisations need leaders to visualise the future, motivate
and inspire employees, and adapt to changing needs. Jack Welsh
of General Electric is one of the best-known examples of a business
executive who combines good management and effective
leadership. He understands and practices good management such
as cost control but is a master leader, actively promoting change
and communicating a vision.
The Leadership Challenge
The biggest challenge facing leaders today is the changing world
that wants a new paradigm of leadership. The new reality involves
the shift from stability to change and crisis management, from
control to empowerment, from competition to collaboration, from
uniformity to diversity, and from a self-centered focus to a higher
ethical purpose. In addition, the concept of leader as hero is giving
way to that of the humble leader who develops others and shares
credit for accomplishments.
These dramatic changes suggest that a philosophy based
on control and personal ambition will probably fail in the new
era. The challenge for leaders is to evolve to a new mindset that
relies on human skills, integrity, and teamwork – the hallmarks
of an Outstanding & High Performance Leadership.
High Performance Leadership – Is it an Art or Science?
It is an art because many leadership skills and qualities cannot be
learned from a textbook.
Leadership takes practice and hands-on experience. Learning
about leadership research helps people analyse situations from a
variety of perspectives and learn how to be effective as leaders.
Practical Leadership Advice for Challenging Times Like These
DECEMBER 2008 I humanCapital 37
Leadership is a science because a growing body of knowledge
and objective facts describe the leadership process and how to use
leadership skills to attain organisational goals.
One of the most important aspects of the new paradigm of
high performance leadership is the ability to use human skills to
build a culture of performance, trust, and integrity. DBMs recent
global study compared derailed executives with executives who
successfully arrived at the top of the company. The successful
executives had good people or relationship management skills;
the best leaders are deeply interested in developing others and are
Human skills are increasingly important for leaders in today’s
knowledge driven economy. Leadership means being emotionally
connected to others. Where there is high performance leadership,
people become part of a community and feel that they are
contributing to something worthwhile. Unfortunately, attempts
to achieve collaboration, empowerment, and diversity may
fail because leaders and employees have beliefs and processes
stuck in the old paradigm that values control, stability, and
homogeneity---rather than people.
Like a captain of a sporting team or a general of an army,
leaders need to innovate, inspire, excite and provide a clear vision
to others. They hold and believe in a vision and just as importantly,
have the self-belief and conviction to communicate it to others.
Furthermore leaders do not have definitive characteristics. Some
inspire and organise, whereas others are strategic or tactical, spot
opportunities or protect against disaster.
Developing High Performance Leaders
DBM believes that with enough training, those with leadership
potential can be developed into outstanding leaders. However
there are things that cannot be taught. This is the difference
between skill and talent. Confusing the two can set up the manager
The events of September 11th showed the world how the
firefighters of New York were humble leaders, dedicated to the
greater good rather than their own personal advancement. They
ran into the twin towers to save others. Humility is important for
good leadership because it places the focus on getting the job
done rather than self-aggrandisement.
Self-awareness is perhaps one of the most difficult leadership
skills to learn and yet it is the one that often has the most impact.
As leaders rise through the ranks of an organisation, their profile
becomes more visible to employees and their increased power can
have subtle and direct ramifications.
A strong management team underneath the leader can help
formulate business-related questions but often the leader needs to
ask questions of themselves, such as:
• Which areas of the business get the most time and attention
and is that the right amount?
• To what extent do they‘walk the talk’of their corporate mission,
vision, strategic goals and values?
• Is the level of communication sufficient in the business for
employees to perform‘above and beyond?’
• Does my decision-making strike the right balance between
the needs of employees and the business, and what is my
record of success?
Aside from internal reflection, aspiring leaders also need to focus
outwardly. One of the best ways to do this is to observe leaders
within your organisation who have traits you would like to model
and who have nurtured their careers to achieve the success you
desire. In observing these people, list three behaviours or things
they have done which you admire, three ways you describe their
leadership style and three things your company values in a leader.
In compiling this list, speak with others in your company to get
an understanding of the qualities they are looking for in leaders.
Armed with this list, you can then compare it with your assessment
of yourself to identify areas for development.
Formulating a Plan
With the knowledge of what you need to develop, the next step
is to formulate a plan to help you get there.
High Performance Leaders use intellectual as well
as emotional capabilities and understandings to guide
organisations through a turbulent environment and help
employees feel energised, motivated, and cared for in the
face of rapid change, uncertainty, and job insecurity. Leaders
can expand the capacities of their minds and hearts through
conscious development and practice.
As executives rise to leadership positions, the complexity
of people management grows considerably. Leaders need hard
skills, for example, how to write a sales plan, and soft skills –
sometimes referred to as Emotional Intelligence. Research by
the Danial Goleman’s EI Consortium indicates 85 per cent of
leadership competencies relate to how you tap into and manage
your emotions and the emotions of those around you. According
to Daniel Goleman, characteristics such as self-confidence,
empathy and conflict-management are examples of emotional
management skills needed in a leader.
Traditional organisations have relied on fear as a motivator.
While fear does motivate people, it prevents people from feeling
38 humanCapital I DECEMBER 2008
can reduce trust and communication so that important problems
and issues are hidden or suppressed. Leaders can choose to lead
with love instead of fear. Love can be thought of as a motivational
force that enables people to feel alive, connected, and energised;
as feelings of liking, caring, and bliss; and as actions of helping,
listening, and cooperating. Each of these aspects of love has
relevance for organisational relationships. People respond to love
because it meets unspoken needs for respect and affirmation.
Rational thinking is important to leadership, but it takes love to
build trust, creativity, and enthusiasm.
In developing leaders, organisations are increasingly
addressing hard and soft skills development concurrently. In
practice, they may require you to complement postgraduate
study, such as an MBA, with an executive coaching programme
that is tailored to your individual’s needs, as well as those of
the company. These programmes range from accelerating the
personal development of ‘high-potentials’ to supporting the
induction of a senior executive to a more senior or different role.
Coaches are also used to clarify career paths, enabling individuals
to take responsibility for managing their own careers.
Blended learning solutions that combine personal
assessment, skill-building and coaching to generate a new
solution are the way of the future. These types of solutions are
generally transparent and focus on improved networking skills,
business process integration, systemic and strategic thinking and
innovation. Companies at the forefront of this type of employee
development often integrate the process into a wider context of
succession planning – one of the most beneficial and valuable
exercises the modern corporation can undertake.
Article by Prof Sattar Bawany, Head of Transition
Coaching Practice at DBM Asia Pacific. DBM is a
leading global human capital management firm
providing career management, executive coaching,
and talent management solutions to private and
public companies, not for profits and governments.
Website: www.dbm.com Email: email@example.com
The world is changing faster today as a result of technology. Rapid
technological changes, a globalised economy, changing markets,
and e-commerce create more threats as well as more opportunities.
service, and competitiveness, but because technology changes
so rapidly, leaders must adopt new ways of doing business.
The Internet and e-commerce have increased domestic and
international competition and challenged organisations to deliver
goods and services rapidly.
Basic management skills of process, control and communication
are still needed and will probably continue to be taught in the
traditional way, in classrooms or through mentoring. But in order
for managers to become outstanding high performance leaders,
there needs to be a different and more scientific approach to
management development, one that shows measurable results
and ultimately has a positive impact on the bottom line.
For Singapore’s budding leaders to compete with the world’s
best, senior managers need to embrace the latest techniques of
high performance leadership development. The price of not doing
so will create plenty of managers, but very few leaders.
The successful executives
had good people or
skills; the best leaders
are deeply interested
in developing others
and are emotionally