She Leads Africa

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Let me start by telling you about Julia. After eight years of operations and more than 25 members of staff, Julia was frustrated and exasperation. She deemed that the business was just not viable and decided it was finally time to shut things down. Dwindling revenues and consistently spiraling costs were largely to blame.

But it was all supposed to have been so easy. After graduating from University with a LLB, Julia decided that, having studied Law to please her parents, she could now start living her own dream. Julia got qualified and set up her own Montessori kindergarten. Soon enough through word of mouth and referrals, pupils came in. But year in and year out, pupil numbers were not growing as Julia had expected. Teachers too were not as inspired and motivated in their work as she needed them to be. Julia herself needed inspiration.

Now, imagine a world where people wake up inspired to go to work.

A world where your employees genuinely look forward to the start of business day. Where they look forward to interacting with their colleagues and leader daily. In this world, your employees are constantly and authentically excited about interacting with clients. They see themselves as relevant and are ready to offer premium solutions to the needs of clients with a listening ear and attentive heart.

Imagine that. Wouldn’t it be really amazing?

In my point of view, this would be seriously valuable. I think we should all seek to make our businesses and workplaces like that imagined one above. I am convinced that one of the ways you can do that is to lead with purpose and direction. You need to know your why of your business, live the why of your business in your operations, and inspire with the why of your business.

The Why

Let’s start with ‘why’. Why exactly are you in business? What is so distinctive about your business and your organization that it would potentially draw clients and employees to your door step?

There are some organizations that people just fantasize working with. There are others that are the preferred service providers of many. There is a reason for this both employee and client deem these organisations to be especial service providers. They are seen as having a unique way of doing and serving. There is something distinctive about their brand and therefore their business.

This isn’t something left to chance. The most sought after brands are relentless in their efforts to be responsive to client and employee needs and wants. They clearly understand why they are in business and who they are in business to serve. They are also equally obsessive about serving clientele effectively and efficiently according to their brand values, and doing so consistently and constantly.

The How

I wonder if Julia, the head of the school above, had thought deeply about the ‘why’ of her business. I also wonder if she had thought deeply about how she would have to operate her business to satisfy that why. Julia probably hadn’t thought deeply about what it takes to create the kind of school that she wanted. This list is lenghty, from organizational values and culture, to parent/school engagement, to away days for teachers, to school administrative policies, to continuous learning for herself and her teachers so that they become authorities in their field, to developing an executive presence for herself.

In any business, there are vital peripherals which we must pay attention to. These are beyond the product and service that you sell. The decisive business leader ensures that their business operates at a place of inspired joint value for all its stakeholders. They ensure that their organization is a continuously learning, improving and responding. They ensure that their business is continually enhancing their capabilities, services and products -and inspiring and motivating staff as it does so .

And that takes courage

It takes courage to inspire, when you inspire you will suggest innovative ways of doing and thinking for the better. In presenting new ways of thinking and of doing, the business leader challenges the status quo. That is why leading effectively often requires courage.

Most people will need tremendous inspiration to offer their best and effect an otherwise dormant potential. It will take courageous leadership to draw out that potential. It was TS Eliot who said that only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go. The privilege and responsibility of business leadership is in taking calculated risks, within and in spite of your resource constraints, to see how you can more effectively serve and respond to your clients and your team’s needs. That takes courage.

But courage is ineffectual without purpose and direction. This is why in business we must know our ‘why’, and gather the courage to demonstrate that why through our how.

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