Leadership is fundamental when it comes building and nurturing a reputation


“The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers,” ~Ralph Nadar

I recently travelled to Kenya on business and, as an avid runner needing to prepare for the Old Mutual Two Oceans Half Marathon (aka shuffling my way through the 21.1km), I was keen to know whether it would be safe to train there. Google reckoned that it wouldn’t be safe. In general, I was also eager to know how safe Nairobi was. So instead of just relying on Google, I spoke to two different people when I arrived. They were unrelated to each other and both, with almost the same voice, said how the crime rate had gone down over the past four years, which they attributed to their new president because he had taken a keen interest in the country and invested in infrastructure and the people. How fascinating that that leadership was the recurring reason for the improvements in Kenya. When reading the local newspapers, there is also a particular focus and emphasis on women empowerment. There is an air of hope and respect for the country’s leadership. Sadly, this is not a sentiment we can share in our country, with the recent economic downgrades and calls for the President to step down.

When we measure reputations, which we see as a key priority for executives when it comes to strategising for the year; we generally pick up two important contributors impacting an organisation’s reputation. These are the leadership and human capital (or the employees that the business invests in).

Delving a little bit deeper, we can put a percentage score not only to the organisation’s reputation, but to the reputation of the leadership and management of the business.

There are five key aspects that we’ve picked up on that leaders could do differently to positively impact their organisation’s reputation:

Values matter

Values need to form part of the organisation’s strategic intent. They are a set of non-negotiable standards that everyone in the organisation needs to abide by. It is particularly important that the leader sets the example. The values that you share in the business world need to be the same as in your private capacity. It is important that everyone within the organisation shares the same set of values. Values help to attract like-minded people to work for the organisation as well as companies you want to do business with. During our weekly team meeting, I encourage everyone to share any experiences involving our core values during the week. I don’t want our values to just be something that gets put onto our website and forgotten about. When we have a difficult situation to deal with, we also use our values to guide us; the outcomes from these discussions may mean that we no longer pursue a lead, or need to walk away from a piece of work. However, that’s what it really means to prioritise values, even above profits.

Listening matters

There is a lot of literature on the topic of listening. It is very true that instead of really listening, people are often rather thinking of how to respond to what the other person is saying. We’ve often picked up during focus group sessions that we facilitate, especially with internal stakeholders, that many employees yearn for a listening ear. There are currently a vast amount of surveys out there, but nothing is really being done with the results. Once the results are in, the data disappears into a labyrinth-type report and only a mysterious select few get to see the final results. Often, no real action is taken from these lofty recommendations. We obtain a wealth of information from the focus group sessions that we host, why? Because we are seen as a listening ear. Our clients who do take their reputations seriously and want to take it to the next level are not scared to share their Repudometer® results with all their stakeholders. By doing so, they take accountability to act on recommendations and also show that they really value the inputs received by all the participants.

Recognition matters

Leadership is a team sport. To build respect as a leader, you need to appreciate and respect your team. It is important to give credit where credit is due. When the team does well, everyone does well. Nelson Mandela once said, “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.” 

Fun matters

It’s important not to lose your sense of humour; having fun as a team is vital. We used to have an ‘employee of the month’ initiative where the team would nominate one person who went the extra mile in that particular month. The snag was what to do when your whole team is a group of over performers? During our strategy session at the beginning of the year, this was an agenda item. The team came up with a brilliant solution; we now have a monthly “Cheers for Peers” initiative; we all celebrate as a team for work well done. Each month a team member gets to decide what the activity is, there is an agreed budget and, as part of the fun, the activity is kept secret until the last moment. 

Creating more leaders matters

Ultimately, our responsibility as leaders is to build more leaders. How do we do that? Making sure that we provide our teams with opportunities to grow and develop. We need to stretch them and push them out of their comfort zones. It is often easier to think, “Oh, I’ll just quickly do it myself.” However, taking the time to mentor someone to do a piece of work that they might not have done before will give them an opportunity to learn something new. They might not do it exactly as you would have done it, or they could also have a totally different take on how best to do it but sometimes, it may even work out better. In all of this, see it as an opportunity for everyone to learn. Leaders need to cultivate more leaders and at the same time, continuously improve and develop themselves.

Keen to continue the reputation conversation? Join Regine on Twitter @ReputationIsKey or Facebook www.facebook.com/yourreputationmatters. Visit www.reputationmatters.co.za for more information.

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