Creating and sustaining a culture of excellence must be a top-down process. An organisation’s leaders are the only persons who can effectively motivate and inspire employees towards a vision of organisational excellence. Of all the excellence enablers, the leadership criterion is probably the single most important factor in promoting excellence in an organisation. Leadership has been,and continues to be, one of the most frequently discussed business management topics, and there’s no end to the literature: there are countless books, frameworks, and examples available in magazines and seminars that have proven effective for every type of organisation. The Abu Dhabi Excellence Awards, based on the European Foundation Quality Model (EFQM) is among the most practical and well-structured guides for leadership excellence and is the basis of this article.
An organisation needs strong leadership that guides and moulds the workforce and unites them under a common set of goals. Leaders need to define a clear strategy that translates into an efficient management of resources and stakeholders, as well as developeffective processes to create and produce products and services that please customers. Without sound leadership, integration and reconciliationof all the different criteria required to meet the needs of customers and stakeholders is a hit-or-miss proposition.
So what exactly can leaders do to implement an effective management system and foster a culture ofexcellence?
The first thing that should be on any excellent leader’s agenda is to define a clear purpose for his or her organisation. A corporate vision and mission needs to be clearly and consistently communicated to all stakeholders involved in the business of the enterprise. The vision and mission can be used to unite an organisation’s employees under one common, all-encompassing goal that provides a clear direction. This helps secure anorganisation’s future by defining all itsobjectives and the activities required to meet them.
Shaping an organisation’s culture and character is a key component to developing a shared vision, whereby leaders define a set of corporate values that guide how employees behave and make decisions. These values help define anorganisation’sbusiness climate and determines how it approaches its objectives and associated problems. These core values must be devised in a manner that will allow theemployees to work together and set common goals for efficient work flow. There should be trust, openness, and individual accountability so that all employees can work towards the company’s interests, much as the company does for them.
Leadersshould also make sure their people understand and live by ethical codes of conduct by continuously emphasizing the importance ofintegrity and loyalty. Common values create harmony in the workforce by guiding an organisation’s internal conduct as well as its relationship with its customers, partners, and shareholders.
Much like a child mimicshis \ her parents, rather than what the parents tellthe child to do, so will employees take directives from a leader’sbehaviour and actions, rather than verbal instructions. A leader must embrace and live the qualities he wishes to foster in his people;he \ she knows that the best way to engrain the company’s mission, vision, and values, is to live them.
To be a true leader,onemustleadhis or her people by example and maintain a work attitude that will inspire and propel them into action. If leaders display the integrity and sense of social responsibility they wish to see in their people, they will create a workforce that is dedicated and loyal, and one that respects their leadership. Honesty is key in both internal and external dealings of a firm, and this is something a leader must reflect in his or her actions.As Lewis Cass said, “People may doubt what you say, but they will believe what you do.”
Constant improvement is of paramount importance in the pursuit of excellence. A good leader persistentlylooks for new ways to reviewmethods and strategies that promote improvement in any way possible. A leader must find cause and effect relationships to establish which actions lead to certain results. That way, desired results can be reinforced and the rest can be discarded.
The manner in which acompany’s affairs are managed also needs to be assessed by monitoring the results that are achieved. An enterprise must not only achieve, but sustainexcellence. Management techniques must be reviewed regularly and, when necessary, revised to keep them up-to-date in the world’s current state of fast-paced business and environmental changes.
Organisational processes must be carefully designed to adapt and stay ahead of current business and economic trends. A good leader always has timely information available, and can apply this informationwithin the context of his or herorganisation, ensuring that the company maintains its competitive edge. Decision-making leaders should be well informed and they should ensure that business decisions are based on factsbefore taking action and driving change. When such considerations are made, resulting actions and processes are often more reliable, and it becomes easier to base future predictions on the results achieved.
Excellent leaders must also be transparent with their stakeholders concerning their performance. Stakeholders should be kept abreastof how the business is doing and what steps the leaders are taking to ensure good performance. Good leaders understand that they are accountable to their stakeholders and therefore act accordingly. It is this feeling of responsibility that drives exceptional leaders to go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that his or her people, processes, and systems are aligned to achieve excellent results. Sharing information and being transparent with stakeholders is a key factor in maintaining their support.
A final caveat: Not only do good leaders share good news, they also share bad news and discuss risky business decisions as well. This way, leaders can garner the support of their stakeholders not only when times are good, but also when times are tough.
Excellent organisations are always looking for innovation, and the best leaders know how to work with disparate groups that are involved in the company’s interests to fish for new ways to improve products and productivity. At a basic level, an organisation strives to align its goals with those of its stakeholders, and excellent organisations have leaderswho can identify who these various beneficiaries are, where they lie on the power and interest map, and how to best serve their needs and exceed their expectations.
Good leadership is an organisation’s driving force behind figuring out how to best engage its partners, customers and the society at large in new and creative ways to enhance theorganisation’s reputation and thatof its processes, products and/or services. A good leader takes the time to know the people and groups his or her organisationinteracts with and how to attract and keep happy customers and partners.
In order to develop and maintain mutually beneficial relationships with other organisations such as suppliers and distributors, a leader needs to have a sense of how their strengths will complement his or her own firm, and how they can best serve the firm’s strategic goals. Once these factors are established, the relationship must be handled with openness, mutual trust, and transparency.
Excellent leadership entails fostering a business environment where the organisation’s workforce are engaged and involved in the ongoing processes and activities of the firm. Employees of excellent organisations feel empowered, and have a sense of ownership and accountability towards their objectives. In order to create this sense of belonging, employees must be made to feel that they are valued and are an important part of the organisation. Only then will they feel motivated to put their hearts and souls into reaching the organisation’s goals. There should be no feeling of detachment or isolation; they need to feel like the company’s interests are their own and they must be inspired to treat their work as their passion, not just a sum of hours they need to endure to get a pay cheque.
The organisational ambiance should encourage innovation, creativity, and out-of-the-box thinking that sets the organisation apart from its competitors. Excellent leaders set the pace for this kind of innovation, and constantly encourage and reward innovative solutions and improvements in products, services, and processes.It is important for excellent organisations to disrupt and reinvent the field they are in, and they can only do this with a confident, creative, and passionate workforce, which, in turn,can only be nurtured by excellent leaders. Employees should not be afraid to break rules and take calculated risks, and should be encouraged to venture out of their comfort zone in order to discover the new and unknown. They must also be supported and guided, and their efforts should be well organized so that they can achieve these innovative goals and targets in a timely manner.
Leaders should also ensure that they promote equal opportunities and diversity in the organisation. This not only keeps all employees motivated, but also attracts a diverse range of innovative solutions and ideas to the firm and improves the organisation’s overall image.
An excellent leader fosters an environment where people love to work and are loyal to the firm’s agenda, where a safe environment encourages creativity and is conducive to advancement, where they feel motivated to strive for excellence in everything they do.
In order to manage change effectively, a leader must first understand which factors drive change, and how these factors function. This understandingcan help them anticipate when the tide is about to turn, and to take advantage of whichever way the sea is flowing.
When making decisions, leaders must be able to use all previous experience and all current, relevant information available to guide them in timely action. A quick response reflexis an excellent leader’s forte, and he or shemust be able to understand the intricate and multi-faceted impactsthat his or her responses will have on the firm and on stakeholders when acting on decisions. Excellent leaders are flexible enough to adapt to new situations, and to tweak their strategies to align with these newly-arisen circumstances in a way that will positively affect the firm, while maintaining the trust of all stakeholders.
Times are always changing and the business world in particular is rapidly evolving. New concepts and processes are constantly developing, and in order to achieve sustained excellence in this environment, it is important to change with it. To this end, a good leader must demonstrate the ability to learn and act quickly, and to continue to develop new ways of solving strategic issues thatcan improve their effectiveness and increase efficiency.Short-term gains can only take a company so far; an excellent leader always thinks long-term. An important part of that long-term thinking is staying competitive by keeping knowledge and skills up to date through constant learning; keeping abreast of new management techniques and making use of those that benefit the enterprise.
This comprehensive set of leadershipattributes and skills is an embodiment of excellence in leadership that every organisation needs to have in order to succeed in a competitive and fast- paced world. It allows a leader to make sure all the other enabler criteria—strategies, people, processes, products and services, partnerships, and resources—are well-organized, well-managed, and are working to their fullest potential.
The Abu Dhabi Excellence Award for Government Performance uses this model criterion to seek out the firms worthy of this honour, and through it, the government encourages its organisations to strive for excellence. Leaders in the Abu Dhabi public sectorvying to be part of this program can look within for these qualities, and develop the ones that are missing so they can lead their organisations to excellence.by