Magazine article Management Today

In My Opinion

Magazine article Management Today

In My Opinion

Article excerpt

Julie Baddeley, director of the Woolwich and an Institute of Management companion, argues that the new economy demands even stronger leaders

In a world where it seems possible to become a paper millionaire with Utile more than a new idea, an entrepreneurial attitude and a good publicist, it's tempting to dismiss the traditional concept of leadership as old-fashioned. I take the opposite view -- that in this uncertain world the need for strong leaders is greater than ever.

The driving imperative is the speed of change that is engulfing us all. Whereas competitors can eater the market and rise to astonishing values in months, if not weeks, we who lead more traditional businesses have to make the most of our infrastructure to create lasting shareholder value, using our scale, brand, fulfilment capability and staff talent. It's not just about starting up a new company called something.com. It's about changing the whole way we do business.

A key part of this is attracting and retaining the right people. We may live to regret the fact that we seem to have spent the past two decades encouraging people to believe that retirement at 50 is a good thing as we find ourselves competing for a shrinking population of skilled young people. Mobility and flexibility will be more important to them than stability and security, and they will be attracted by opportunities that are not dragged down by tradition and outdated HR practices and that offer the prospect of fast-earned riches.

For traditional employers this new paradigm means that salaries alone will not be sufficient to retain the best. This is where leadership will make the difference between the winners and the losers. There will still be a role for good management -- to ensure that goals are set programmes are managed, risks are controlled and people are organised. But, it is leadership that gives people confidence and conviction to go for ambitious goals; to keep their heads when share prices are fluctuating and competition is mounting; and to believe in their organisation's future when they hear stories of people making vast wealth in technology-based IPOs.

Leaders who can paint a picture of the future to which people can sign up, knowing the role they will play in delivering that future; who can create a climate where everyone is able to achieve their potential; and who can coach their colleagues and senior managers to inspire people and speak with a common voice -- such people will attract top-class talent to their organisations and keep it there.

The good news is that leadership is not rocket science. Many of the qualities and behaviours attributed to 'natural' leaders are actually the result of learning to do a few basic, old-fashioned things consistently. …

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