Archive for the ‘leadership’ Category

Business leaders and political bigwigs will soon meet in Cape Town for the World Economic Forum. There is a clear understanding that the dialogue has shifted in recent years when it comes to understanding Africa’s role in the world.

No longer dismissed as a business basket case, the global community knows that money is being made on the continent. Growth rates are strong. Investment is flowing. Returns are good.

The big question for Africans is to ensure that they too get a share of the spoils.

But how do they do this?

The answer for many is the rather wordy phrase “beneficiation at source.” Politicians like to throw this buzz phrase into conversations because it describes how local communities should “benefit” from their own natural resources.

Traditionally, foreign companies buy Africa’s raw materials, whether they are metals, oil or crops, and then sell the finished product back to Africa.

Now, there is a political push for more African control over its refining capacity, to have more influence over the end product.

While this makes sense, economists and analysts all point to two significant challenges that Africans face as they try to unlock the potential of their continent and grab the opportunities “at source.”

Over and over again, I hear the same two concerns – that a lack of infrastructure and a skills deficit continue to hold back Africans.

If Africa’s working-age youth – an estimated half-a-billion people by 2050 – are to seize the chances that lie before them, then more investment has to be plowed into education.

African engineers, farmers and architects are urgently needed to create a better infrastructure to underpin the continent’s economic potential.

Highways linking big cities and regional hubs need to be built. Fertile agricultural lands need to be farmed strategically. Electricity and power grids need to be upgraded and maintained.

The world and African leaders cannot talk about economic growth unless they increase investment in the critical areas needed to sustain that potential.

Posted by: CNN Correspondent, Robyn Curnow


First scenario: An agricultural scientist from Israel was contracted by a West-African country to help them boost their food production. The Israeli signed a contract involving lots of money in consultancy payments.

Initially he wondered how a country that could not feed itself could put together the heavy sum, but he decided to complement their efforts with his expertise. He also hoped the experience would enrich his knowledge.

He was received at the airport with impressive pomp and whisked to plush accommodation in a pricy hotel. The following morning, a helicopter lifted him for an aerial tour of the country. He sat quietly during the tour, observing the fresh, green land the country is blessed with. When the copter touched down, the surroundings had been made even fresher with rain. He also saw rivers, green forests and a vast arable land.

Expensive lunch had been served. Ministers were seated. Journalists had gathered to report the recommendations by the expert. They waited while the food got cold. Then they waited. The Israeli had sneaked out of the hotel for the airport, wearing a pair of shorts and his sandals. But he was kind enough to have left a handwritten note with the hotel receptionist: “You don’t need me to show you how to farm. In my country, we farm on rocky lands, and have enough to export.” He also left the cheque he had been paid.

Second scenario: A millionaire Scottish entrepreneur likes to call himself a global citizen. He is consumed with guilt when he sees images of malnourished African children on television. He wants to help. He invites the finance minister of an African country to discuss a joint project that would see both countries learn from each other and improve on their fortunes. The African minister came with his wife in a big entourage.

While in Scotland, the minister’s wife went on a shopping spree. One of the stores where she swooped items from aisles in bales is owned by the Scottish host. Meanwhile her husband sat with the millionaire in his office, discussing the mutual benefits of the project and the amount involved. The project would require a follow up visit to Scotland and two feasibility, fact-finding tours in the African country. The minister departed.

The millionaire would discover from company accounts that the amount of money his guest had spent on shopping is more than half the total amount required for the joint Scotland-Africa project. His store manager and sales girls had received generous donations in tips from the minster’s wife. There was talk of similar sprees in other stores. The millionaire decided to halt the project. Meanwhile an African delegation to the second half of the project had already been assembled, which included travel-hungry Africans who had no knowledge of the project. They had paid good money to sneak out.

Last Scenario: In a certain country, the finance minister and his government are embarking on a serious cost-cutting measure, to invest more in healthcare and education. Government expenditure, including all financial transactions in the Prime Minister’s office are reduced to half, and periodically published for all to see. It gets so serious that photographs at functions are reduced to only one. Instead of buying a new pair of shoes to replace his old one, the finance minister goes to a shoemaker’s shop to resole the old shoes, just like we did years ago. He does not cut the typical profile of a rich politician because there is no ostentation around his person. His mandate is to work, do more work, and work even harder. The objective is to use his public office to better the private lives of people. His mission is to make the policies of his government work in people’s lives.

What lessons can the ministers in the earlier scenarios learn from the shoemaker experience of the other minister in the last scenario? The countries of the ministers in the earlier scenarios are behind 250 years in development. There is no social protection for the poor. Schools are held under trees and there is no middle class. Instead, there is the poor who live in the very abyss of depravity, surviving on less than a dollar a day in dire economic situations. There are no jobs for their youth and children of school-going age sell by the road side and in the middle of traffic. Health facilities are so inadequate that women in labour have no beds to sleep in. These countries are going back in development while the world they live in is advancing in science and technology.

Yet, they live large: Does a preacher of the gospel need four private jets to do the work of God in a poor country? Raise a curious voice in honest disapproval and you are the accuser of the brethren. The Lord has blessed Him. What about the millions in the same country who have no public toilets and no jobs to do? They must have been cursed. What use is a million dollars in a land where only cowries are used? That is what it means for a few proletariats to live large in the midst of tribunes. There would always be reason, often a good reason, to accuse the brethren. And the brethren should hear the accusers.

To reduce the 250 year gap by even a year, we would learn to go to the cobbler to resole our old shoes, instead of spending money and time to import the latest designer make from rich countries. That is cost-cutting. That is cutting expenditure. Ironically, the millionaires in the rich countries have no time to buy and wear the expensive items. Like the Israeli agric expert in the first scenario, they walk in shorts and sandals. Where they cannot walk, they ride their bicycles to their laboratories to research into things. Where they cannot ride, they drive cars built and assembled by their engineers.

Meanwhile, back to the country in our first scenario, intensive investigations have been initiated into what government spokespersons described as the ‘disappearance’ of the Israeli agric expert. Hotel staff have been quizzed and accused of negligence for allowing a government contact to leave their premises without official permission. The hotel manager has bluntly been told that he would not be engaged for future government deals. This was after he had been detained for several hours during investigations. A committee of inquiry headed by a former high court judge has been tasked to look into the matter.

There is also trouble in the second scenario. The travel-angry people, who had paid large sums to misrope in the government delegation to Scotland, are on the offensive. Some are threatening to go public if their money is not paid. ‘They had been told: ‘Go head, do your worst, and you will see where you will end.’ The most aggressive ones have been promised a juicier deal coming up in a few months. Back in Scotland, the millionaire is planning to open another branch of his chain in New York and France. And he did.

Source: Tawiah-Benjamin, Kwesi

London, England (CNN) — Coming clean about your shortcomings at work isn’t something that most executives would be keen to confess in a hurry.
But if you are serious about a promotion, or that long overdue pay rise or you simply want to do your job better you need to stare down your weaknesses if you want to move up the career ladder.
That’s the view of U.S. corporate consultant and author Jim Taylor who argues spending time on those uncomfortable flaws is more beneficial than simply concentrating on improving your strengths.
“Without the acknowledgement of weaknesses there is no possibility of change,” Taylor told CNN.
“To really make big gains you have to improve weaknesses. Don’t be threatened by them. Use them as information to improve performance.”
Weaknesses, he says, are typically within our control and with some effort we can do something about them. Eradicating them leads to better performance, productivity and profitability.
The “three P’s,” as Taylor likes to call them, all stem from improving your knowledge about yourself.
As Taylor points out, we’re not always the best judge of our own capabilities as we often under or overestimate our weaknesses. Feedback is vital be it from a mentor, close colleague, friend or spouse who are in a position to tell us what we need to hear.
Nevertheless, change is uncomfortable.
“You never know how or what is going to change and that’s really unsettling,” Taylor said.
“The problem with addressing the mental side of business performance is that you can’t see it, measure it or touch it. There’s no inventory, no spreadsheet of numbers.”
During his 22-year career Taylor has also worked with many of the world’s elite athletes including Olympians and PGA golfers helping improve their mental performance. Taylor himself is a former international alpine ski racer and he finds his business clients benefit from the application of a simple sporting metaphor.
“If athletes want to improve their physical performance they do physical testing and they find out where their weaknesses are. They might need to work on agility, or their leg power or endurance and they use that information to design a training program,” he told CNN.
“If athletes do a physical test and it shows that their legs could be stronger they don’t ignore it and get all threatened by it — they say: ‘I need to train.'”
Taylor stresses to clients that there are no quick fixes.
“I try to create a framework which says change is difficult, but it is possible. Success is difficult, but failure is even more difficult. Change is also boring, tiring and frustrating. But if they want it bad enough they’ll stick with it.”
If you want to improve your personal performance at work Taylor recommends seven steps to success.

Gaining a better understanding of yourself is the foundation to providing you with the direction to get the most out of your business life.

Find out what drives you. Without the determination and drive to take action in pursuit of your goals all efforts will stop. Motivation ensures that you do everything you can to be totally prepared to achieve your goals.

Believe in yourself. Believe that if you take risks you will be successful. It’s a cliche, but think positive thoughts. But rather than saying unrealistic things like “I’m the best,” say “I’m going to keep at this. I believe that I can be successful and I’m going to be.”

The ability to handle stress and the ability to respond to a crisis is absolutely essential whether you are a sportsman or the head of a company. Stress debilitates performance so maintain a perspective and respond to the physical manifestations of stress by doing something to relax.

There is no such thing as multitasking the way business people think of it. Multitasking suggests doing several things simultaneously, but what people actually are doing is serial tasking — going from one task to another very quickly. Research shows that it is inefficient, so don’t do it.

Being able to manage and master emotion is absolutely essential. Know your baggage. People can react to situations with anger, depression or despair often because of how they were raised Taylor says. If you know how you tend to react in certain situations then you can choose another emotional reaction.

The Ego is essential for success. When I work with companies I want them to be great, meaning very successful in the traditional sense but also good meaning responsible and ethical. A good tip for dealing with ego is to allow the word humility to enter your psyche. There are great business leaders out there who have tremendous humility.

London, England (CNN) — Money, power, a jet-setting lifestyle — why wouldn’t you want to be a CEO? There are plenty of reasons, according to CEOs themselves.
Steve Tappin is a CEO confidant and author of “The Secrets of CEOs.” Researching the book he interviewed 150 global chief executives about business, leadership and the harsh realities of their job. What he discovered might make some wannabe chief executives reconsider their ambitions.
“Probably two thirds of CEOs are struggling,” Tappin told CNN. “I don’t feel there’s really a place where they can learn to be CEOs, so I think most of them are making it up.”
Tappin and a neuroscientist friend have carried out physiological and neurological tests on chief execs. The results paint a picture of chief execs being overworked, overstressed and exhausted.
“The major emotions a CEO has are frustration, disappointment, irritation and overwhelm,” Tappin said.
“There should be a health warning. If you have those emotions for 80 percent of the day, they lead to stress and cortisol in the body, which leads to accelerated ageing, heart attacks and cancer.

“In many cases people were burned out and stressed. The end game is that they’ve got very low energy. People assume CEOs are superhuman but they’re grappling with a really hard job.”
Being a CEO has always been tough, but the global nature of modern business means running a company has become increasingly complex, with decisions needing to be made around the clock.
A global business means global travel — not just exhausting business trips across time zones, but having to relocate for work. The former chief executive of mining giant Rio Tinto says he and his wife have lived in 19 houses since they were married.
Tappin said the downturn has heaped even more pressure on CEOs, who are having to simultaneously cut jobs and keep workers motivated.
Then there’s the loneliness. About half of Tappin’s interviewees admitted they find the job intensely lonely and didn’t know who to turn to for advice.
In The Secrets of CEOs, Mike Roney, chief executive of plastics group Bunzl, says “The chief executive’s job is solitary. You really don’t have a peer group in the same way that you have when you’re one of a number of executives working at a large company.”
Tappin said this can be a real problem for chief execs. “Who do you turn to? You can turn to your chairman, but your chairman can ultimately sack you,” he told CNN.
“You can turn to your execs, but there’s an element that you’re trying to make sure they deliver, and also potentially they could do your role.”

You might think a CEO could talk over their problems with their family, but it turns out that family life, or lack of it, can be another problem.
“About 90 percent struggle with work-life balance, when they talk off the record,” said Tappin. “Jobs are exhausting and emotional.”
An unnamed CEO who has been married twice is quoted in the book as saying, “I can’t remember my boys growing up. I can’t remember them when they were young. People ask whether you have to make a choice between your family and your career. You definitely do. You can’t have both.”
But Tappin said there are CEOs who manage to negotiate the perils of the job. He gave the example of Philip Green, CEO of British firm United Utilities.
“He is a Christian and he has a ‘five f’ formula: faith, family, fitness, fun and firm,” said Tappin. “Notice he didn’t say firm first. Those are core to him being able to succeed.”
Tappin said it is possible to thrive as a CEO — it just requires a new way of working. “The only way forward now is for much more of a team, or what I call a fellowship, of four or five at the top. A really tight team on a mission to create a brilliant company,” said Tappin.
He added that it’s a model that’s increasingly being used by companies in emerging markets, such as India and China.
Tappin said chief execs should surround themselves with a support network. That network could include psychologists and personal trainers who can help a CEO cope with the pressures of the job and stay at the top of their game.
“Most CEOs don’t take care of their own personal performance, being at their best everyday,” he said. “The big development in the next five to 10 years will be learning from all these fields like science, psychology, sports performance and coaching.
“We have that training for athletes, why don’t we have it for CEOs looking after hundreds of thousands of people?”
He said it’s also vital for CEOs to set firm work-life boundaries and to make sure they have interests and values outside of work.
“There’s an element of not everything being about the job, because once you have that and then it goes wrong, that’s when people have breakdowns.”

London, England (CNN) — If you thought effective leadership was all about cracking the whip and relentlessly focusing on targets, think again. A people-centered approach is far more effective, argues a new report.
“Exceeding Expectation: the principles of outstanding leadership” published by UK employment organization, The Work Foundation argues that the best leaders have an “almost obsessive focus on people” which they ally to “a drive for high performance.”
The report took two years to complete and examined the leadership practices of six high-profile UK organizations, including multinational consumer goods company Unilever and supermarket giant Tesco.
More than 250 in-depth qualitative interviews — including nearly a third with senior leaders — were conducted for the report. Leaders were classed as either “good” or “outstanding,” with their differences split into 17 categories.
For example, good leaders were those who would “give time to others” or “tends to focus on work,” whereas outstanding leaders would “focus on people as a route to success” or “seek to understand people and motives.”
The authors conclude that “outstanding leaders focus on people, attitudes and engagement, co-creating vision and strategy.”
Penny Tamkin, the report’s lead author says she didn’t set out to prove or disprove any current management theories, but the people-oriented slant of the results came as a surprise.
“I think I expected that very busy, very senior people would see their workforce as one element of what they had to attend to and that they would give them appropriate concern but not necessarily be the key thing,” Tamkin told CNN.
“But what came across was this incredibly strong sense that outstanding leaders were deeply people-centered, which meant they spent a lot of time on it.”
Tamkin and her team spent around three hours interviewing each leader, exploring their management beliefs, how they put their leadership into practice, how they form relationships and how they convey and create vision.
What came across in most cases was a real passion for people, Tamkin says, which has positive knock-on effects.
“Leadership that focuses on mutuality and respect is not only good for people but good for organizations too,” she adds.
The report identifies three organizing principles of outstanding leaders.

Firstly, they think and act systematically, seeing the whole picture rather than compartmentalizing.
Secondly, they see people as the route to performance — meaning they are committed to forging better relationships with employees.
And thirdly, they are self-confident without being arrogant, which means self-awareness is one of their key attributes.
Targets and goals, the report points out, are vital for any business looking to prosper. But outstanding leaders tend not to focus on these, thinking of them as more of a by-product of effective management.
“It’s always about targets, it’s always about purpose. Outstanding leaders are always driving for something,” Tamkin says. “It’s not that they ignore targets it’s just not where they put their main effort. They believe targets will emerge from a focus on people.”
There are, of course, circumstances where focusing on targets is completely justified and necessary as Tamkin explains.
“When leaders have new people on their team they have to build people’s capability, enthusiasm and confidence. You have to take a stronger steer until the point when people can fly themselves.”
Having a people-centered approach especially during difficult economic times is a strategy that Iain Densten, Professor of Leadership at the Lancaster University Management School in northern England agrees.
“When things get tough, sometimes leaders have got to almost do the opposite. Instead of walking in and saying: ‘I’m cutting your budget by 20 percent’ and walking out the door, they’ve got to engage people and say: ‘How can we solve this?'”
The urgency which an economic crisis presents is a key issue for leadership, says Densten.
“Urgency can motivate people to change their views to seek out new answers. Urgency is a powerful source of motivation to challenge what they are doing. Just being hard-nosed doesn’t really change things, particularly in the long term.”

Why introverts can be great leaders

Posted: January 13, 2011 in leadership

(CNN) — Outgoing personality traits are often associated with top corporate roles, but new research suggests businesses miss out when they fail to find and promote executives with more understated styles.
Harvard Business School researcher Francesca Gino has found that introverts can play a crucial role in leading teams.
Many of the strengths that people associate with leaders, for instance being dominant or being good at giving directives, are often the same traits that characterize someone who is an extrovert, Gino told CNN.
But in a forthcoming paper, she argues that when it comes to day-to-day teamwork in the workplace, less obvious leadership qualities can become more important.
She and her collaborators asked bosses to rate how extroverted they considered themselves and then studied how their teams worked.
They found that extroverts were more dominant, drove conversations and were less receptive to new ideas. Introverts, on the other hand, listened to ideas, internalized them and were able to improve team performance.
Gino said that introverts demonstrate superior performance when they are leading a team of proactive workers.
“If you’re working in a team that has lots of knowledge, where people are proactive [and] suggesting ideas for improvement, you would do better for the team if you took a backseat position and took the approach of an introvert, who is very careful in listening to suggestions.”

Gino and her collaborators, Adam Grant from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School and David Hofmann at University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School, are publishing their research next year in the Academy of Management Journal.
Gino hopes the findings will help businesses realize the leadership potential of introverts.
“In reality the quality of being more quiet and being more receptive to different ideas is something that should be valued,” she said.
It seems it’s easier for extroverts to climb the corporate ladder, she noted. A 2009 study conducted by researchers from the University of Minnesota and Baruch College found that 60 percent of top level executives displayed high levels of extroversion.
But introverts clearly have something to offer, Gino said, citing examples of successful introverted leaders, such as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates.
“What we hope HR departments are going to ask about, or any executive board, is the value that an introverted person can bring to the table,” she said.
“We do need people who are able to listen to different suggestions and opinions and are able to value them.”
Extroverts feel more energized by social interactions whereas introverts are more energized by solitude — but this isn’t necessarily linked to how shy or good at, say, public speaking, someone is, says Nancy Ancowitz, a business communication coach and author of “Self-promotion for Introverts: The Quiet Guide to Getting Ahead.”
Introverts can use simple cues to make sure their value is not overlooked, Ancowitz said. “Sometimes it’s raising a finger, leaning forward, saying someone’s name — any of those cues can work.
“The important part is you need to be heard, you need to make your contributions known, otherwise you can get passed up for the raises and other people get the credit for your hard work.”
Some leadership traits might come a little bit more naturally to extroverts, according to Jennifer Kahnweiler, an executive coach and author of “The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength.”
“It’s more in their nature to build rapport, stop and have a conversation with somebody,” she said. To them, doing that “is like getting out of bed and brushing their teeth.”
Kahnweiler, who defines introverts as low-key thinkers who are energized by solitude and prefer in-depth conversation to casual chatter, interviewed introverted executives who successfully climbed the corporate ranks.
These leaders, she says, had learned to put careful thought into their social presentation at work and to manage expectations so that bosses and co-workers could see the up-side of their personal work style.
“How we’re perceived in organizations matters,” she told CNN. The executives she studied had a hyperawareness about how they were viewed and managed it to their benefit.
According to Gino of Harvard Business School, one of the key takeaways from her research is that anyone can learn to practice effective leadership.
In her study, she found that regardless of their personality type, when pushed to try different styles, people were able to learn the positive leadership characteristics of both introverts and extroverts.
“What the [findings] suggest is that no matter who you are and what your disposition is, you can push yourself,” Gino said. “Some people may just need to push themselves a little harder and use an attitude that sets the situation.”

London, England (CNN) — With the Indian economy predicted to grow by 7.5 percent this year, experts say it could be time for Western CEOs to learn some lessons from their Indian counterparts.
While Western economies continue to stutter, a report forecasts India will soon return to the high-growth trajectory it enjoyed before the crisis.
At the same time, new research published in this month’s Harvard Business Review shows the heads of India’s biggest companies have a very different approach to leadership from Western bosses.
Peter Cappelli, professor of management at Wharton University of Pennsylvania, was one of the researchers behind the study, based on interviews with leaders and HR departments from 98 of India’s 150 biggest companies. He identified some of the key differences between Indian and Western bosses.

Social purpose
“In terms of lessons for managers elsewhere, one of the most important things is that Indian leaders lead with a sense of social purpose,” Cappelli told CNN.
He said every leader interviewed gave a specific social purpose as being the goal of their business. Those purposes ranged from improving healthcare in India, to getting cell phones to people who don’t have access to communication tools, and proving to the international community that Indian companies can lead in IT.

“Having a social purpose really motivates workers,” said Cappelli. “If you can articulate a social purpose for your organization and take it seriously, it can have real benefits.”

Invest in employees
Indian firms invest an enormous amount in their employees’ training and development. IT firms typically allocate 60 days of formal training for new hires and companies often spend months training even experienced workers hired from other firms.
The study said that U.S. firms have largely abandoned investing in employees, seeing it as a waste if they leave the business. It adds that employee turnover is estimated to be 30 percent in India, and investing in employees ensures the quality of those who stay at the company.
Subramaniam Ramadorai, the former head of Tata Consultancy Services, said of his company’s success, “It’s all about human capital at the end of the day.”

Take the long view
Indian bosses place far less emphasis on shareholders than is typical at Western businesses. As a result they’re more able to take a long-term view.
“A lot of U.S. companies in particular will say, ‘We’re not going to meet our quarterly numbers, so we’ve got to adjust everything in the pipeline to make sure we do.’ That’s a costly thing for the long term,” said Cappelli.
He said Western companies can’t just ignore their shareholders, but their CEOs can do more to buffer their employees from shortterm financial pressures, letting them get on with their jobs.

Work from their strengths
Cappelli says U.S. companies often think about strategy in terms of chasing customers or pursuing market opportunities, but Indian firms will more often start by identifying their strengths, identifying their customers’ needs, and then try to meet those needs.
“[Indian companies] do that by taking smart, motivated people, really engaging them and investing in them, and letting them loose to just beat on those problems, often with just trial and error approaches, until they come out with a solution that’s kind of out of the box,” he said.
Jagdish Khattar, former managing director of automaker Maruti Udyog, told the researchers, “Throw issues to them [your employees]. Let them examine and come back to you with solutions.”

Act as a role model
“One of the things these leaders all said was more important to them than shareholder value was being a personal role model for their employees, which is an amazing thing for an executive to say,” said Cappelli.
He added that by thinking of themselves as role models, Western bosses could have a real impact on their workers.
“You could get a lot done by acting as if people are watching your behavior in all kinds of dimensions and taking that seriously,” said Cappelli. “If people are watching what you do, is what you’re doing really what you want your employees to be doing?”