Leadership Principles

Leadership Principles

Five Leadership Principles That Will Never Change In The New World Of Work

Behind the scenes, the leader of an organization is constantly working on a long-term strategy to ensure that his vision is upheld. Leaders chart a path to an unknown place in the future. Ideally, the path is towards a better place. There is no clear compass to know what the future holds, and leaders have to follow a certain set of values to ensure the growth of the organization. Therefore, leadership behavior is the greatest influence on overall organizational behavior. No matter the factors in the environment, strong leadership will sustain change, and inspire a team of employees to trust the leader.

From that perspective, I believe there are two kinds of organizational behaviors. One is principle-based, which focuses on what is right and ethical. The principles of an organization are founded on the leader’s visions that are based on the needs in the marketplace enhanced by a customer-centric approach. The other organizational behavior is rule-based, where the focus is on profitability and cutting costs where necessary.

While these two are black-and-white approaches, there are grey areas in the leadership behaviors of any organization. In times of uncertainty, leaning towards principle-based behavior maintains people's trust and loyalty. The highest-ranking person in the organization is the guardian of the principles.

Here are five key principles of leadership that will never change in the new world of work:


1. Know Yourself

To lead means to ask yourself tough questions. Knowing yourself also means aligning your values and the vision for your organization, rather than someone else making that choice for you.

When times are good, revenues are coming in, and there is growth and great energy. With this, there is usually a great customer experience. The true test of leadership shows up during difficult times.

For example, in a crowded busy shopping mall, a customer enters a store, picks up an item, and heads to the checkout counter. The customer waits patiently despite the long queue. The customer is understanding, aware that the employees are busy, and is willing to wait to buy the item. If the same customer enters a store when it is empty, picks up an item, heads to the checkout counter and there is no staff, the customer will not have the same attitude of patience or understanding. When the customer asks for service and is told to wait, that is a crucial moment of leadership. Will the customer be served by another staff member? Will the manager show up and attend to the needs of the customer personally? Or will the customer leave without the purchase, dissatisfied by the service?

In this case, a polite manager or employee could take over and facilitate the payment.

A prerequisite to leadership is to understand themselves as a customer – to put themselves in the customer’s shoes – and relate to their needs. The mapping of the service process is not complicated, but the pitfalls are the gaps that show up in times of uncertainty. The rules should not cannibalize the principles.


2. Trust Your People

The organization depends on the loyalty of the workforce. There is much talk about trust, yet actions are taken in the opposite direction. For example, mystery shoppers are sent out to check the quality of the employee service, and then the HR or management relies on the mystery shoppers’ findings. Ideally, an open and transparent conversation between the management and the employees leads to better understanding, instead of secretly checking if they are doing their jobs right. The better way of investigating the service quality is through a customer experience survey. Such an approach allows the employee’s involvement and self-motivation to be conscious of every customer’s needs.

Just like when we are forewarned while driving on a highway, that there is a speed-camera ahead, it puts the onus of responsibility on the driver. The end goal is to create an environment of participation. There is an element of trust involved.

Whether a leader or manager or employee, they are all following the same principles of trust. The point of a survey is that there is a triangle between leadership, employee and customer. This is the strongest triangle when the customer becomes part of the survey. This leads me to my next point.


3. Communication is Key

In a leadership journey, bringing people with you to follow your vision, is all about communication. It is important to help them understand the ‘why’ behind your vision. When companies pivot in turbulent times, the business is migrating in a different horizon where the clarity behind the changes needs to be communicated effectively. When questions are addressed to the leader of the organization at team meetings, it shows they have a vested interest, and the employees are counting on an aligned vision. The leader’s response needs to be honest and clear. Especially in uncertain times, it is essential to communicate how the leader will face a crisis and what they expect from the employees.

Whether stakeholders, employers, industry associations, and even governments, there needs to be a proper plan and system in place to protect those whose jobs are at stake. This compassionate culture will lead to a more confident and happier workforce. If any disaster were to strike, the leaders would be the front liners to face the situation. When it comes to communication, it also means cultivating a culture of positivity and respect - a principle that the employees are the assets of the company. They are treated the way that the organization wishes them to treat customers.


4. Measuring Tools Add Value to the Principles

The 360 review is one of the popular tools that provide each individual in an organization an opportunity to receive a comprehensive performance review. The most effective 360 review is one which is purely based on tangible markers. However, there is one flaw in the 360-tool. After the review, the leader of the organization develops a great relationship with the suppliers and the employees - more than the customers. The measure does not take into account the customer experience. Data points work if we can add the customer survey in the 360-review process. In that way, the measuring tool will provide a better overview of every aspect of the organization, and then communication with the employees becomes more effective.

Of course, when you're running an organization with over 30,000 employees and a million customers, a leader will not be addressing a complaint call. Acknowledging the complaint through a personalized template letter signed by the president shows that the customer’s experience is not ignored.

That kind of personal touch by the leader of the organization encourages employees to follow those very principles of creating a customer-centric culture. With the changing world, we need a more detailed measuring tool, the kind that can be expanded to include these five elements: the potential of organization, changes in revenue, changes in profitability, employee retention and new customer acquisition.


5. The Human Element

We use technology to improve our environment and enhance the quality of human lives. It helps us to do more, with less work. In any organization in today's world of artificial intelligence, we need a hybrid model for a truly successful customer experience. That means using technology to ensure that no customer feedback goes unheard or unseen. We need to humanize the technological side of our lives. The human touch cultivates a connection with the customer and recognizes the uniqueness in their every sensory experience of life.

Creating a confident and happier workforce leads to a compassionate culture. Every leader should take charge to be the Chief Happiness Officer of their organization. This means creating happiness for the customers, employees and shareholders. This can only be achieved if there is a hybrid of the principle and rule-based organizational behaviors.