When it comes to headhunting potential leaders of an organization, executive recruiters are quick to define the essential qualities of the candidates who make the shortlist. While skills and experience is a prerequisite, there are certain behavioral patterns and traits which come into play, for these characteristics are often the difference between satisfactory management and inspirational leadership.
In fact, when we look to the most successful brands around the world, we can see common leadership behaviors, and a very distinct style of management. For example, Steve Jobs is mostly attributed to the extent of company culture for which Apple is now known. When Apple was languishing behind Microsoft and other rivals, it was Jobs who established innovation and simplicity as the core values of Apple products. However, it was also Steve Jobs who created a company culture and united his workforce with a common goal – to create meaningful experiences for those who interact with Apple and associated products.
At the same time, creating a company culture is not an easy task, and for employees to invest their lives at a company, they need to believe in the underlying value of that culture. In some cases, leaders may lack the necessary charisma to inspire their subordinates, while in many businesses, sector’s and even countries, social conditions or local culture can prove a tricky obstacle to overcome.
For example, a well-known professor recently highlighted some concerns when it comes to nurturing a company culture in Southeast Asia. In what he refers to as a “power distance,” Geert Hofstede suggests that a particularly extreme division exists in Southeast Asian businesses between leaders and those with a lower level of status. Although common elsewhere in the world, this division is especially strong which the professor attributes to various aspects such as ancient feudal systems and established hierarchical social structures.
Either way, the result of this division can be, an uninspired workforce with most employees adopting a “step aside” mentality in the face of a leader who does not see these subordinates as being capable of sharing an opinion of equal value.
In case you might be asking yourself, this power distance is not simply confined to Southeast Asia and in truth; you may find it present within organizations anywhere in the world. In each instance, regardless of location, the person with a higher level of authority assumes complete control while the person in low power is accepting of their less significant position. On the contrary, in a company with low power distance, you will notice that the voice of each holds as much power as the next. Furthermore, these people with a lower level of power are likely to shun any leaders who they find to be condescending or overly controlling.
When you consider the variety of backgrounds and personalities in any business, the need for an experienced and competent leader is clear. However, at a time when social conditions and external factors play an integral role in the way people need to be managed, there is also a responsibility for leaders to take responsibility for nurturing an appropriate inclusive culture. Indeed, executive recruiters are right to exercise caution and take time when it comes to choosing potential leaders for an organization. After all, aside from the multitude of pressing responsibilities on management, it is usually the behavior of a leader that will define the company culture.