Sim Tshabalala, Co-CEO of Standard Bank, said that while being a good Chief Executive was ‘about knowing your industry’, it was also about ‘having the ability to lead people who know more than you’.
I liked Mr Tshabalala’s answer because of the implications it has for a successful leadership style.
I have always believed, for example, that there is no room for an arrogant approach that assumes because that you’re the leader you know best. It’s not an easy trick to pull off, but a good leader has to have humility without this undermining his or her authority. You need to be able to seek the opinion of experts and then weigh up the best way forward.
A corollary of this is, of course, that you need to have the experts there in the first place! This means thinking hard about the knowledge capital necessary in your business for the right business decisions to be made. Compare what you and your employees have in terms of skills and expertise and what’s required. What are the gaps? If there are none, then that’s great… but if there are some, then your training/recruitment planning needs to plug these as soon as possible.
‘Having the ability to lead people who know more than you’ is a challenge. For some, knowledge is power and they might not want to share their knowledge with you willingly. Others might feel cowed by an overbearing leadership style and therefore afraid to suggest a more informed course of action. In the end, it’s all down to communication… getting amongst your staff, and putting in place devices like ‘two-way information sharing’ meetings.
Perhaps you’ve already adopted this style of leadership?
If not… then perhaps it’s time to get off your high horse?!
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