What makes a good leader? We may have heard or read about this question at least once, more so now that we have seen and heard from political candidates during their campaigns and rallies before the May 9 national elections. The same inquiry arises at some point for corporate employees. Although it is easy to dismiss it as another question with neither a right nor wrong answer, it is one worth pondering about. After all, being a leader is not just getting the job done; it is far from it. It entails fostering open communication with and a culture of trust among peers and staff, with Gallup reporting that 22% of workers expect to have leaders with clear-cut objectives and visions for the organization. Needless to say, a leader is one who is able to contribute and to make a lasting impact to colleagues and the whole organization.
Digressing further, different studies present a collage of answers to this question, each as diverse as all the others. According to a separate Gallup report, a good leader is one who is assertive and who integrates accountability in his or her decision-making. While it is impossible to craft a universal picture of who a good leader is, including the different characteristics that embody him or her, a commendable leader is one who adopts an effective leadership style.
Effective people management and leadership skills are just some of the gamut of factors that increase employee productivity and boost overall operational efficiency of the organization. However, it is equally true that leadership styles are often patterned based on the needs of a business and depends largely on the type of business model or approach that an organization employs.
According to an article of the International Institute for Management Development (IMD), there are five dominant leadership styles, from delegative and autocratic, to the more increasingly utilized transformational leadership style that most visionaries today adhere to in making holistic changes to their organizations. Like all things, they each have pros and cons, and can be guiding in certain circumstances.
While functional leadership styles contribute largely to overall operational efficiency, there is another principle that corporate management may consider placing at the heart of their blueprint – operational integrity.
Operational integrity defined
Ethics has little to do with the success of a business. Wrong. Although generally attributed as more of a personal and inner conflict of an individual about whether to do things the right way or to forego his or her convictions in exchange for convenience, integrity and ethics play a huge role in ensuring effective leadership and management. An article published by the Harvard Business Review cites a number of reasons why these values can make or break corporate management initiatives, among them the direct effect of putting an imperative on honesty and integrity to improve company culture.
Integrity, as defined in the Webster dictionary, is a firm adherence to moral values. In the context of corporate management, we can define operational integrity as the commitment of leaders and staff to uphold honesty and integrity in every business dealing which can, in turn, foster a culture of accountability and transparency across the company in the long run. So, how do we start implementing operational integrity within our firm?
Verbalize your commitment to promote a culture of trust, integrity, and accountability. Lay down the specifics and be firm in stressing that integrity is one of the corporate values that management intends to instil in every employee. Make sure that each employee understands the correlation and direct effect of integrity to accountability, which means being responsible for one’s own actions.
Strive to achieve and contribute to a shared goal
Engage and keep everyone in the loop. Whether it is about a new policy or corporate undertaking, it is essential that all employees are properly apprised of the objectives of the organization. This way, they will not only feel that they are trusted, but also that the results of their individual actions have an impact on the larger goals of the organization.
Assess and conduct regular mentoring sessions
In a 2020 article, Harvard Business Review highlighted the impact of having accountability processes that can help management assess the impact of their policies, from monthly appraisals to random assessments and mentoring of staff. When undertaken correctly, such mentoring sessions and appraisals can deepen the levels of trust between leaders and staff. Over time, these modes of assessment can improve the quality of feedback and allow all employees to turn learnings from past actions to guiding principles which can be useful in future decision-making.
Aside from these, it is vital that leaders and heads of management understand the repercussions of their actions as part of their decision-making process. In addition, it would be best for leaders to learn and engage in new ways to develop their skills as transformational leaders through formal discussions and insights from fellow business leaders and shapers of the business community via training sessions and speaking engagements.
While the concept of a “good leader” evades an exact definition, there are more ways than one to become better decision and policy makers. These include underscoring the value of adopting accountability and transparency in line with existing corporate policies, as well as shining the spotlight on integrity as one of the tenets that more companies should put at the heart of their operational and policy frameworks.
As published in The Manila Times, dated 11 May 2022