News Column

To Inspire Teams, Business Leaders Must 'Think Different'

April 17, 2013

Renee T. Walker

Businesswoman (file photo)

Business leaders must consistently up their game just to remain competitive in today's increasingly demanding and global marketplace.

There are many leadership challenges - from a multigenerational workplace to a rapidly evolving "on demand" competitive environment - that require different leadership and specific communication skills to optimize our teams, to continually meet market demand and exceed customer expectations.

As chief executives officers and organizational leaders, we provide our customers, leadership teams and employees with sound strategies and guidance to continuously enhance their productivity and actively contribute to the company's success.

Certainly, effective communication is an important and necessary cornerstone of great leaders and progressive organizations. The key driver of an organization's growth and success is, and will remain, leaders who inspire, engage and empower their teams. These leaders understand the importance of embracing and championing change.

Engaging and empowering an organization's most valuable assets - its people - enables the organization to innovate, differentiate and excel. Tremendous opportunities abound for leaders who are willing to invest in the development of their teams, pay it forward and inspire their high-potential talent.

Every leader is routinely faced with the choice of playing it safe or daring to challenge the status quo. To achieve greatness and peak performance, companies must break with tradition.

One company that embraces and epitomizes a culture of challenging the status quo is Apple. In 1997 Apple launched its "Think Different" campaign that began with these words:

"Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things."

Game changers move companies forward.

In a recent Forbes article, Mike Myatt observed, "Game changers refuse to allow their organizations to adopt conventional orthodoxy and bureaucracy - they challenge norms, break conventions, and they encourage diversity of thought. The message here is a simple one: don't copy, create. Where you can't create, improve on, and innovate around best practices to find next practices."

One area that clearly deserves greater attention is the impact of women in top leadership positions. The commonly held perception that women leaders' best value is in the softer skills such as personal relationships and communication, continues to hinder their ability to fully contribute to their organizations and ascend to the highest leadership levels.

In their 2011 Study in Leadership, Zenger Folkman, a leadership development and corporate training firm based in Orem, Utah, found that men dominate the executive and senior management ranks with 78 percent in the highest level, 67 percent at the next level down and 60 percent in the middlemanagement level.

The study also found that women surpass men in the majority of top leadership competencies, such as taking initiative, driving for results, and inspiring and motivating others. Men in the study slightly outscored women by 2 percentage points in developing strategic perspectives.

"It is a well-known fact that women are underrepresented at senior levels of management," says Jack Zenger, CEO and co-founder of Zenger Folkman. "Yet data suggests that by adding more women, the overall effectiveness of the leadership team would go up."

Creating a team environment that embraces and fully engages all team members is a key differentiator for our companies and can lead to game-changing opportunities. As leaders, enabling our teams to perform at their highest level must be our first priority.

Renee T. Walker, APR is a strategist, consultant, speaker, entrepreneur and accredited public relations executive. As president of Renee Walker & Associates LLC, a certified Minority Business Enterprise and a Women's Business Enterprise, she assists growth-stage startups to global organizations harness their brand power, optimize their competitive positioning and drive their business growth.

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Source: Copyright Michigan Chronicle (MI) 2013

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