CEOs Only Have One Purpose Right Now: Empowerment

How do you define leadership in today’s turbulent world?

Juney Mistiki, Managing Director at Bamboo Distribution, illustrates the growing need for business leaders to empower and listen to their staff.

Much has been written about the changing workplace, but what about the role of the CEO? Do leadership strategies of the past still hold value today? How can leaders adapt, and which qualities should they dial up?

Let’s first look at how employees are coping. According to research from Deloitte, 38% of workers believe lockdown has negatively impacted their wellbeing. When asked what they miss when working at home, 45% said social interaction, 31% said they are more collaborative in the office, and 25% network more easily.

There is one positive from these findings though – with distance comes new responsibilities and personal development. Disruptive business events often have this effect. Mass home working has prompted people to take greater ownership of their roles.

For many, this newfound empowerment is novel, however from my perspective it’s what I believe great leadership has always been about.

Empowered Together

No leader can do it all. Accepting this fact is the first rule of being a successful CEO. Empowerment is everything.

To succeed in today’s hyper competitive world, your team should feel in control of their own destiny. As a CEO, this means nurturing the personal pride people get from managing something, whether that’s overseeing a global project or managing their own department.

To succeed in today’s hyper competitive world, your team should feel in control of their own destiny.

Ideally, every business unit should have an empowered individual with the freedom to experiment. Someone who owns their personal workload and group outputs. They understand what is expected of them and their teammates.

This trusting, open and transparent business culture helps maintain strong bonds with the company’s mission and with colleagues who happen to be working from afar at the moment.

Instilling confidence in others ultimately builds a more resilient business, creates a supportive team and strengthens the client experience.

On Board the Same Boat

So, empowerment delivers motivated people who can drive your business forward. What is the CEO’s role in all this, then?

It is still on CEOs to lead by example, empowering those around them and to encourage genuine teamwork. As the revered Andrew Carnegie once said: “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organisational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”

And perhaps we should add: ‘in uncommon times’ considering the situation we are in…

Everything about our current situation is uncharted, but CEOs can lean on their experience to create a working environment that is as close to normal as possible. This is empowerment through practice.

They should ask managers how they believe the business should move forward instead of telling them what to do. Listen, don’t dictate.

Empathetic leadership flourishes too. When people are empowered, they feel comfortable raising difficult questions with colleagues. Managers are more perceptive to negative triggers. They simply care more.

A true leader knows that it is the interaction between employees that gets things done, that fosters praise and achievement, and makes for a rewarding working experience. When Steve Jobs, disgruntled with Apple, bought Pixar Animation Studios, he scrapped the original plan for three buildings with separate offices for computer scientists, animators and management. Instead, he designed a huge empowering space that put the most important function at the heart of the building – employee relationships. He deliberately created an open area so people could always talk to each other openly.

Right now, this is the most important function of a CEO – to give people space, to keep employees talking and to keep talking to them about what they need to succeed in their roles.

Discuss their plans and ideas, reiterate the trust that has been placed in them and remind them that they have an essential part to play. After all, a company is only ever the sum of its parts, and its parts primarily should be empowered people.

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