THE qualities required for modern corporate leadership have changed with the shifting post-GFC business paradigm.
Associate professor Peter Miller of Southern Cross University and associate professor Carol Dalglish of the QUT School of Management, outline the kind of leadership qualities that make the cut in today’s business world.
As corporations reform their management strategies to keep up with recovering economic conditions, Miller says modern leadership focus needs to be on long term sustainability, not short-term profit maximisation.
“All leaders need a vision and that vision has to be an appropriate vision,” says Miller, who has co-authored a book with Dalglish titled Leadership: Understanding its Global Impact.
“What happened in the GFC was the visions of many of the corporate leaders were very short term – profit maximisation sort of visions which were not only inappropriate for the business but inappropriate for the world; they weren’t sustainable.”
According to Miller, a strong leadership vision must be articulated with effective communication, delivered with trust and led by example.
“If you look at those companies that have survived the financial storm they are the organisations where there are good values,” he says.
“The qualities that really matter now are things like integrity, ethics, corporate responsibility. Those sorts of things now are making the difference. It’s not just about setting values and setting a vision; it’s about role-modelling those values.”
Miller says the book unearths some truths on personal development, a lead by example kind of philosophy.
“When you have good self knowledge you can start to appreciate and understand other people better. We take them (readers) through a number of reflective exercises so at the end of the first four chapters they have painted a picture of themselves,” he says.
Dalglish says the collaboration is the first comprehensive leadership textbook written from the ground-up by Australians with a focus on the Australian-style of leadership.
“People who want to lead in this country need to be very aware and they need to be prepared to share their strengths and weaknesses with their followers,” she says.
“Australian workers don’t expect their leader to be perfect and if they understand their leaders strengths and weaknesses they will compensate for that.”
With previous Australian leadership textbooks based on adaptations of American work, Dalglish and Miller say the book is finally ‘the one we wanted to write’.
“Leadership in Australia is much more collegial,” says Dalglish.
“Australians like to have someone in charge who knows where they are going but they don’t like the assumption being made that we will simply follow. They like to be part of the process.”
Miller says the more direct American style of leadership does not work in Australia and uses the example of the ‘disastrous’ Telstra period with Sol Trujillo as CEO
“Leaders in America are worshipped but Australians have a very different way of relating to power, relating to authority and to bosses,” says Miller.
“You can ask Sol Trujillo, who is a very experienced American manager and was paid a fortune to come here and manage Telstra for the time he did, if Australian culture is different to American culture and he will tell you very loudly now that yes it is.
“I often ask my Chinese students, ‘when you come to Australia and manage an organisation what is it you’re going to need? And they say ‘we’ll need to get a sense of humour’ and that’s exactly right.”
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