Hartman: How Nigerian executives Can Navigate Headwinds in Challenging Times

Neal Hartman


 In this interview, world renowned academic and Head of the Managerial Communication Group at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Professor Neal Hartman, speaks on how, in partnership with These Executive Minds (TEXEM), he is enhancing Nigerian executives’ leadership performance in a recession. Excerpts

 Tell us about TEXEM?

 These Executive Minds (TEXEM) pride themselves on their ability to customise programmes for their clients and TEXEM have a deep understanding of Africa. Also, Texem and its world class faculty partners have a very good grasp of contextual realities of Africa vis-à-vis fragile institutions, limited infrastructure and the huge size of government.

 What skillsets are a must for leaders of organisations in order to survive in a tough economic climate?

As would be discussed in the programme Leadership for High Performance in difficult times organised by TEXEM scheduled to come up on the 9th of March at Intercontinental Hotel, Lagos, Leaders are more productive and creative in positive times and see fewer options in tough, negative circumstances.  Yet turbulent times require leaders to shine in order for the organisation to survive and thrive.  Leaders need to know how to motivate their team, focusing on the vision and empowering people in the organisation.  They have to set the tone for how the organisation will function through difficult times.  Effective leaders must recognise their inner strengths and utilise them for the benefit of the organisation.  And leaders need to develop and maintain strong relations with others, both within and outside the organisation.

How can a business thrive in spite of turbulent economic times?

Turbulent economic times can actually offer opportunities to consider how an organisation can change in a positive way.  Can the organisation be more efficient?  Can it approach work in new and different ways, thinking about both processes for how things are done as well as how people work together?  And what is the short-term as well as long-term vision for the organisation?

What are leadership skills required to navigate headwinds in challenging economic times?

To navigate organisations through headwinds in challenging economic times, leaders must clearly articulate their vision and strategy.  They must motivate and inspire their staff and display confidence and composure.

How do leaders develop innovation for their organisations?

Leaders need to create a culture that encourages innovation and creativity.  People in the organisation cannot be afraid to fail – they need to be encouraged to try new ideas and processes to see what might happen.  A spirit of innovation must circulate throughout the organisation.

What should leaders in business do consistently to maintain a stable business?

To maintain a stable business, leaders must constantly consider sustainability in their practices, their products, and their services.  How does the organisation assure a consistent level of quality and how does it constantly innovate to stay ahead of the demand.

 What are leadership strategies for consistent growth?

Leaders must constantly do market research to understand the demand for products and services.  They must also anticipate what customers’ desire or need.  Once it is determined what people need, an organisation can then work to satisfy those demands.

How should leaders measure growth?

Of course, the initial answer is to look for increasing market share and/or client demand.  But growth can also be measured on other factors, such as reducing employee turnover, improving processes, and expanding into new areas for the organisation.

How can negative change be managed to produce positive results in organisations?

It is critical to remember that negative change provides opportunities to try new things and to do current things in different ways.  One must understand what drives negative change, but should also look at new possibilities.

What is the best way to work when faced with a challenging situation?

Leaders must display authenticity and integrity when faced with challenging situations.  Transparency is important.  It is a time to objectively consider what is bringing about the challenges and to explore the most effective and efficient ways of dealing with them.  The leader must project confidence to stakeholders.


How can leaders prepare for uncertainty?

In today’s world, we are constantly faced with uncertainty in our economic, political, social and cultural lives.  Leaders must recognise that they will operate in an uncertain world and strive to create a sense of stability for their organisations, recognising that change could quickly come from a variety of sources.  What happens if an economy fails?  If a new political leader comes into power?  If there is a natural disaster?  Leaders need to be prepared to anticipate the unknown.

Why is this programme important for Nigerian executives?

This programme Leadership for High Performance in difficult times scheduled to come up on the 9th of March at Intercontinental Hotel, Lagos is designed to enhance self-awareness about several characteristics of leadership.  What communication style is preferred by one leader versus another and how can one utilise various styles to strengthen their own success as a leader?  How does one effectively lead in a crisis situation?  What do we mean by “leadership presence” and how does each leader define his or her presence?  What does it mean to be a leader in the global world in the 21st century?  These are some of the issues that will be explored in this programme.  For more information about this programme, please email: alim@texem.co.uk