Delves: Many Industries, Countries Need Transformational Change to Prosper

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At the forthcoming TEXEM, UK’s executive development programme, scheduled to take place in Lagos next week, Prof. Roger Delves is expected to facilitate the programme. Currently a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and educated at the University of Oxford, Delves is the Associate Dean and Professor of Practice at Ashridge Executive Education, Hult International Business School. His special interests are helping others to understand the roles of authenticity and emotional intelligence in Leadership and team engagement. In this interview, he speaks shares valuable insights into leadership. Hamid Ayodeji brings the excerpts:

What leadership rules should we be breaking?
Leadership is more art than science. We can break any leadership rules which do not leave us feeling our integrity or values, or those of our organisation or those of our nation have been compromised or flaunted.

Where do our best ideas come from, and how can we spawn more creativity?

I think our best ideas come when we are trusted to make mistakes and to fail. If we create cultures which welcome error and failure as inevitable on the journey to success, then we will enable ourselves to be risk-takers in the ideas we create and adopt. Nobody ever succeeded by being afraid of failure.

What can we do to drive decisions down closest to the point of impact?
We can change our leadership paradigm from ‘decide and tell’ to ‘ask and listen.’ Get the people affected by the decisions to have a say in the decisions. Much wisdom in organisations is ignored because it does not wear a suit and tie. Listen, with an open mind. Listening is not a commitment to act. But it should be a commitment to think.

What can we do to operationalise our vision, values and strategy?
Operationalising vision, values and strategy requires convergent thinking. Once the vision, values and strategy have been agreed, then bring together men and women who want to attend to the management of detail to decide how to make those things happen. High-class leaders create vision, values and strategy. High-class managers execute them. They converge strategy and execution, vision and action, values and behaviours so that the gap between each is minimised. Great organisations recognise the strengths of great leaders and great managers and develop them, for example via programmes such as TEXEM, UK’s ‘leading with personal impact during slow growth.’

As a decision-maker, what should be most important to me about developing my capability?

If your skill is decision making, then you have to be utterly clear about what you bring to the decision-making process which allows people who won’t be in the room with you to trust you, believe in you, be led by you. What informs your decision-making? How does it fit alongside the vision, values and strategy of your organization?

What are the leadership principles that you have discovered and executed that have contributed to your success?

There are four principles which underpin and inform our emotional intelligence, and for me, they are the guiding lights of my Leadership. They are to be genuinely, deeply self-aware; then to be able, regardless of situation or circumstance, to self-manage so that what one does truly reflects who one is. A leader needs to be socially aware, truly inclusive, building cultures to be proud of, and finally to be committed to relationships which are open, honest and real.

What are leaders’ greatest failure?

And what can we learn from it? The greatest failures of leadership I see are the prioritising of task completion by the leader over team building. Teams complete tasks, leaders build teams. That’s what they should be rewarded for doing and given the time and space to do. What we sadly don’t seem to learn is if we reward leaders for doing the wrong thing, then we’ll keep on getting mediocre teams.

Can you please talk more about execution?
What can I do to ensure that my organisation’s strategic plans actually become a reality through execution? You have to keep asking yourself ‘what’s my job? If your job is to identify the strategy, then once you’ve identified it and it’s agreed, step away. Somebody else who is good at implementation should implement it while you go away and do more strategic thinking. Someone has the job of identifying strategic implementor. If that’s not you, then your contribution is finished when the strategy is accepted. If you are the implementor, then your question is, what is the strategy that I am to implement? Make sure it is agreed and entirely signed off. Then make it happen. Too many organisations make one person responsible for too many aspects of the workflow from idea germination to product distribution. Compartmentalise. Get experts for each piece. Attend executive developing programme such as TEXEM’s leading with personal impact during slow growth.

What can organisations do to take care of staff?
Have a real relationship with each and every one of them—even the ones you don’t like very much. Let them feel your interest. Share hopes, fears, dreams and ambitions with them. Be vulnerable. When there is trust, then find out what concerns them and help if you can.

Relationships – How do I continually deepen my personal relationships with my clients, staff, peers and leaders around me?

Pouring time into a relationship is like pouring water into a plant. Time to ask and listen not just to tell. Time to build trust. Then failure can be allowed – and then risks can, therefore, be taken. Then difficult conversations can be had – so no more unresolved conflict like dragging the team underwater.

As a successful leader, which one thing do you wish you had done differently?

I wish I had moved away earlier in my career from the failed model of the hero leader and realised that a leader with frailties and vulnerabilities, a servant leader, dedicated to the team, is much more likely to gain commitment than a hero leader.

When you’re considering partnering with another person or business, what factors are deal-breakers for you?
I have to be able to trust them, and their integrity has to be beyond question. There has to be a genuinely open relationship between us.

How do you keep your employees or team members keen and motivated?

By creating and maintaining an achievement culture within which every individual feels supported and valued.

In a situation, when faced with tight decision-making, what process do I need to go through to reach a sound conclusion?

I have an acronym: RIGHT choices. What are the RULES? What action has INTEGRITY? What does a GOOD decision feel like to me? What HARM can I do through this decision, and how? Is there a TRUTH that I know I should abide by?

What can I do to lead better?
Keep thinking about your values – the person you want to be; the person you know you are. Are you that person as a leader? If not, why not? What’s stopping you and why? If you’re a good person, you can be a good leader. If you’re not a good person, please don’t lead…

Which is most important in an organisation? Mission, core values or vision?

Core values. Your mission can and probably will change as the world we inhabit constantly evolves; your vision will certainly change as new opportunities emerge or are created by what you are doing now; companies cannot stay still, they must evolve. But through all this change and evolution, our values, those things that encapsulate the ditch we’d be prepared to die in, they are always the candle in the window.

What is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?
In order to prosper, or even survive, many industries, many countries need to undergo transformational change. That requires transformational leadership, which is extraordinarily demanding and challenging and almost always comes up short. So the challenge for leaders is, have you got what it takes to be transformational – because somebody is going to have to be.

What is one mistake you witness leaders making more frequently than others?

They think their job is to DO things rather than to create an environment in which other people can thrive and act. Leaders are catalysts, cultivators and need to be developed.

What is the one behaviour or trait that you have seen derail more leaders’ careers?

A lack of emotional intelligence. Most leaders fail not because they can’t do the cognitive stuff, but because they can’t do the interpersonal relationship stuff.

What are a few resources you would recommend to someone looking to gain insight into becoming a better leader?

Attend TEXEM, UK’s executive development programmes! Read some of the great management thinkers around Leadership – Goleman, Kotter, Drucker, Goffee & Jones, Stephen Covey, Amy Edmondson, David Caruso. They have deep insight and some great things to say. Never buy a book you’re not prepared to scribble notes on!

What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?
You’ll do things wrong. Get over it. The idea is to play the long game. Set out your principles early and keep to them. Leaders are forged in the fires of experience, so you need to lead in order to learn. But those fires are a good deal easier if you have an asbestos suit of values or principles to help you through…

What will Leaders who attend this programme take to their organisations afterwards?
Leaders who attend would: Develop their interpersonal influencing skill Learn to build enduring organisations that meet the needs of stakeholders. Learn to promote a trusting relationship in their organisation—leverage social capital for enduring success.

Why should executives attend your programme holding later this month?

Let me quote from the statement of a previous delegate of TEXEM, UK, and you can be the judge. Dayo Babatunde, Former Senior Partner, Ernst and Young, said and I quote: “I regard the These Executive Minds Executive Education programme as the best I have attended in recent times. Not one of them, but the very best as it was humanly perfect”.