Minding your own business: the strategic and leadership responsibility

wocintech minding own business

Minding your own business is very important as a leader or CEO. Leaders of any kind have three fundamental responsibilities – crafting a vision, building followers, and championing execution. Whether you are a celebrated musician, entertainer, actor, politician or business person, you become a leader the day your vision starts to gain a following and people start paying real attention to what it is that you are doing.

This is where the responsibility of leadership actually begins – in continuing to gain the wilful interest and attention of followers (clients, business partners, staff) through the art of your work and business. Even as you champion execution in original and remarkable ways.

Minding your own business

That process is what I call minding your own business. Minding your own business here means paying deep attention to the way that you operate, direct and lead your business. All this so that the end game can be a masterpiece. Fanciful? Not so.

The most successful businesses are led by CEOs who are usually atypical in the way that they think and do. That is what gains them recognition, that is why the world begins to pay attention.

These CEOs think deeply about their business service and or product. They think laterally about the potential outputs and products of their work. And they do different through their thought leadership.

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Many years ago I was in a two-day strategic planning workshop in Nairobi, Kenya. There we had been tasked to imagine a new future, to see who our clients would be in 5, 10 and 15 years time. We were tasked to think about how we would engage with those clients in subtle yet strong ways.

We also had to complete the same exercise for our staff. What competencies, skills or disciplinary expertise would we want and need in our future staff? What would it mean for the operations and administration of our firm today?

The implications for today were important because we want to create a future, not to arrive at a future that we had not made ourselves.

Creating your future

I remember being completely mind-boggled by the exercise. The projected requirements some members of our team were coming up with seemed improbable and fantastic. Yet they were inspiring.

From renewable and clean energy consultants, to sustainable agriculture experts, to corporate responsibility consultants. These may seem obvious now, but 15 years ago it was not.

Back then consulting involved business process re-engineering, financial management, human resource management and the likes. No one was really thinking of consulting in these ‘new age’ disciplines.

But therein lies the responsibility of minding your own business. The amazing thing was that even though the process started slowly, some ten minutes into the exercise a new electrifying energy filled the room.

As one person dared to imagine, we all started to imagine. Even as we imagined what the business might look like in years to come, we all got excited about the part that we individually would play in that new future.

I think that was what really stirred the energy. Suddenly everyone’s work and contribution became meaningful. Our leader had started the process of championing execution.

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Imagine and create new possibilities

Eight years ago in Lagos, Nigeria, my team sat in consultation to the then Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola, advising him and his commissioners on their respective medium term sector strategies.

We imagined a Lagos where priority was placed on adherence to the rule of law and on a culture of proactive service delivery. We imagined a Lagos exemplified by physical, artistic and cultural attractions with international appeal. A clean environment of aesthetic beauty and serenity. A Lagos where there is security of life and of property.

Where was this Lagos? It was in the mind of our future.

Effective business leaders set aside time to imagine and examine new possibilities, even though they may not immediately know the ‘how to’. It is the process of imagining and being committed to new possibilities that is actually the most critical part of being strategic as a leader. We don’t reject an idea just because we are not sure of ‘the how’.

The best of business leaders are risk takers, doers, and the makers of things. It is time to start minding your business.

4 simple things you can do every day to upgrade your leadership skills

beyonce upgrade you

Leadership is one of those concepts that everyone loves to talk about but can’t quite define. You know what it is when you see it. As a young woman entering the workforce, you will have opportunities to lead over the course of your career. When that time comes, we want you to be ready.

Here are four tips that will help you to become an effective leader.

1. Listen to others’ ideas

Great listeners make outstanding leaders. Listening will help you understand the pains and opportunities in your company. The people that you work with are there for a reason. They have expertise and talents that are valuable. Listen to and value their perspectives. Having open conversations with them will spark invaluable ideas and teach you a thing or two.

Don’t be too quick to dismiss their recommendations. Yes, you are the boss, but that doesn’t mean you have a monopoly on positive contributions. Listen to advice from other leaders even if they are not in the same industry that you are in. This Forbes read provides even more insight on effective listening and leadership. 

2. Hold yourself accountable

As a leader, you are accountable not just to yourself but to your team and client base. The decisions you make have consequences that don’t just affect you.

If you fail to communicate effectively with your team, for example, business operations are negatively impacted. When you stop being accountable, inefficiencies arise. This will greatly hinder the fulfillment of the company’s vision.

3. Respect those who work with you

This is a basic concept that we all learned as children. Treat others exactly how you would want to be treated. Talk to your team members like the smart adults that they are. There is absolutely no need to be condescending, dismissive and rude to them.

Trust me, being an aggressive leader doesn’t scare employees into respecting you. It certainly doesn’t do their morale any favors. If you want them to do their best work, then you simply have to respect them. Remember that arrogance has never looked attractive on anyone. It only prevents people from helping you. This read on How to Earn Respect as a Leader provides more insight. 

4. Get your hands dirty

Working with your team is important. You can’t build a brand by eating, sleeping, and breathing delegation. Monitor the company’s social media channels. Respond to inquiries. Do the work that your team typically does on a daily basis. This will provide you with an opportunity to experience firsthand the challenges that they deal with.

Understanding this will give you valuable insight and inform your strategic decisions. It will also show your team that you are not afraid to roll up your sleeves and get the work done. Try these 5 Tips For New Team Leaders.

Your personal leadership style will undoubtedly evolve over time. However, having strong principles and knowing the type of leader you’d like to be can help get you started on the right path.