Every day I see multiple posts on Linkedin about leadership and what qualities it takes to be a good/great leader. Virtually all of these focus on leadership in a hierarchical setting, i.e. being a good boss. But that is not the only place where leadership is required. Companies that pride themselves on being customer-centric must have the right corporate culture, mindset and priorities in place in order to achieve that customer-centricity.
No amount of technology or tools will fix issues with mindset, culture, behaviour and priorities. And that is what is so often forgotten in our drive to use technology at any cost, even when it just doesn’t work the way it should. Great tools are only as good as the people that use them. If the users do not have the right mindset, the tool will not fix that.
Also, in today’s hard-fought business environment, middle management are often slaves to KPIs and these KPIs often get in the way of providing the kind of service to customers that should be provided. Pressure to meet the targets distracts from the immediate objective of satisfying customers. In the current environment prevailing in many companies, it requires a special kind of person to say “Yes, KPIs are important, but let’s not allow them to keep us from our primary objective which is to serve our customers”.
If a change of mindset, culture and behaviour is required, everyone needs to be part of the solution. This change will not happen by itself, particularly in companies that have been around for some time where one often meets passive (or in some cases, not so passive) resistance to change. It needs people to spearhead the change throughout the organization at all levels. It needs people who are committed and passionate about providing customers with the end-to-end journey that they deserve. LEADERS are needed! Leaders are crucial to bringing about this change within the organization. People follow the example set by Leaders.
Leaders don’t need formal authority. Leaders can be effective at any level within the organization. If I look for the 5 characteristics of a good leader, not specifically related to hierarchy, I find:
Strong Communication: Say what you mean, mean what you say and, most importantly, do it! Walk the talk.
Passion & Commitment: Show enthusiasm for customers and commitment to resolving their issues or, even better, make sure the issues never arise in the first place.
Positivity: A positive attitude is contagious. It is far more attractive that negativity and makes people want to join you. It also makes work a pleasure rather than a chore!
Innovation: Thinking outside the box…yes, I know that’s a cliche, but innovative ideas delight customers. It shows them that we are prepared to go the extra mile and think about THEM.
Collaboration: Work together. Teams are far more effective than a group of individuals. In many companies there is a depth of amazing talent and a great deal of positive energy that can be channelled to great effect. Working together saves energy by reducing friction.
Note that none of these characteristics are related to position within the hierarchy of the organization.
Anyone can lead and show the example. They just have to want to!