RUNNING A SUCCESSFUL COMPANY IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE; IT IS MORE COMMON SENSE THAN COMPLEX BUSINESS JARGON!
On the 30th June 2013 the Sunday Nation Newspaper published a pull out titled, “Transformative CEOs with Golden hands”. The pullout featured 37 CEOs and the businesses they lead. The report covered 30 men and 7 women. Eight of these CEOs held doctorate (PhD) degrees while the organizations ranged from billion-dollar corporations to SMEs and successful startups in both the public and private sector. Industry categories included Public service (4), Retail (1), Property (1), Education (5), Finance (11), Technology (3), Regulatory authorities (3), Manufacturing (6), NGO (1) Agriculture (1) and Insurance (1). Our study showed that successful business leadership is more common sense than complex business jargon.
This study covered 37 corporate profiles, written by different authors. The word study counted the frequency of transformative words used in the reported profiles to describe the success of each CEO and their organizations. Our objective was to identify the key concepts that led to the celebrated success of the CEOs and their organizations. Out of a list of 60 transformative words, the top word was “business” while at the bottom of the list was “loan”. While important words like mission, profit and capital did not rank as highly as expected, the words that made the top twelve contained more pedestrian words than complex business jargon. The words, independent of industry bias, reflect the thinking and common approach used by CEOs to ensure the success of their enterprises. Business leaders should focus on 12 words to facilitate their own and company success; Business, Service, Develop, Lead, Work, Manage, Team, Market, Organization, Vision, Finance, People. The article below reviews the first six;
Apparently, the most important competence of running a successful business is to understand the business! This sounds like common sense, but is that sense really common? We all assume we know what business is, but do we? We think we understand its purpose and know how to run it, but do we? Do we actually understand the businesses we run? Many an entrepreneur will tell you that in the beginning, they ran the business but once a business becomes established, it takes on a life of its own. At the start, the entrepreneur is the driver, but once the business grows, other forces take over like customers, weather, cash flow and other powerful business factors. Only those who can master the business have any hope of leading it to success. Successful business leadership requires specific, not generic, business mastery. However, CEOs are often hired, more for their previous success than, for their understanding of the new business and thus fail to make a transformative impact. A successful cricket coach may not succeed in the game of tennis. To transform an organization or successfully lead a business you must understand the business in entirety; its origins, purpose, management and politics. After all business is the nature of the “beast”.
“Service” and “business” are nearly equal. Presumably the two may be very much the same thing or very much of the same thing. It seems one should not exist without the other. If you like, service justifies business. This thinking supports the concept of “servant” leadership. Successful CEOs seek to serve and ensure their organizations do the same. Jim Collins observes this kind of leadership that elevates a business from average to greatness. A business that serves the public is a business that leads the market. If you want to be great, you must be the servant of many. However, we must consider why service outranks profit as the object of enterprise. Service implies other (customer) benefit rather than company benefit. An organization must not “tax” customers but serve them and then be rewarded for that service. This is a hard lesson for the profit driven, hard-nosed, bottom line business executive, but service is the key to greatness.
The free dictionary defines “develop” as, “To bring from latency toward fulfilment:” Transformative organizations are not static but in constant search mode. They maintain a state of searching out, digging up, exploiting and realizing their potential. Transformative organizations are in the business of mining and extracting the value of their potential in a continuous state of growth. These organizations are more concerned with exploring latent gifts, talents and potential than harping about past success. Transformative organizations are concerned with organic growth rather than physical expansion. They exploit the corporate DNA. Successful CEOs concentrate on making the organization what it could be than what it is. The way to do that is to extract and install its full potential.
Leadership is the “facilitator in chief” of a business. The role of leadership as the custodian of corporate success is to make sense out of the business, its service delivery and realize its potential. The leader’s role is to strategize for success. Dr. Ridgley talks of strategy as imposing order over chaos or entropy. He argues from the third law of dynamics that the natural order of things is entropy unless a “strategos” or army general (business leader) makes sense of what is going on. Much as one would like to glorify the leader for the success of a campaign, leaders are usually very keen to share the glory with their leadership teams. Effective Leadership teams are carefully selected, deployed and directed. It is not the number of leaders an organization has that matters it is their quality that brings success. The finger of success points to the quality of an organization’s leadership.
It is amazing how often the simple word “work” appears whenever business discussions and success stories are told. However, the word is far from simple. Work is at the complex core of business success. A loose comparison to work is productivity. However, productivity measures the output of initiative in spite of the effort put in. Work on the other hand incorporates effort, initiative, creativity, innovation, attitude, discipline, courage and output. Work is much more than results. Results are only part of the outcome of work. In successful organizations, work creates far more value than the same work produces in non-transformative organizations. Successful leaders and CEOs find ways to maximize the outcome of work efforts, they do not just measure performance, they also do not waste effort or initiative. Successful CEOs find ways to ensure the smallest amount of work amounts to great corporate value. Efficient and effective work habits are good things, but these in themselves do not achieve success. All work must be a multiplier to leverage and achieve the strategic intent of the business. Successful organizations may not work harder than other businesses, but they are certainly able to produce greater value than the average business.
To “manage” is clearly related to leadership, but to manage is to “follow through”. Successful leaders are always supported by good managers. While leaders work out the goal, managers have to work out how best to achieve that goal. Managers manage performance, process, and solve problems to achieve the goal. Collin Powell says, “Leadership is the art of accomplishing more than the science of management says is possible.” Management is essentially a science, the science of achievement. The power of science is its ability to improve the quality of our lives by discovery, research and constant development of new ways of doing things. The duty of management is to, “always, relentlessly push forward the frontiers of possibility and bring about new reality”.
Allan Bukusi, Leadership Consultant