A leader faces a lot of challenges at every turn, and being under scrutiny all the time, they are likely to be consumed by the pressure that comes with it. In this situation, how does one remain anchored while navigating the challenges, and also stay positive for the sake of peers, colleagues, and the organisation as a whole? Here are some ideas derived from personal experience, that might shed some light on the path that leaders should follow:

Knowledge: The only currency that evokes a moral right to lead

Leadership exists everywhere in an organisation, at any level, in all functions; and can come through any person from anywhere within the organisation. There is no secret to why this is so—it stems from where knowledge resides. Simply put, it is the only currency that gives one the moral right to ‘lead’. The knowledge may come from experiences that shape a person, and this is especially true for the modern business leader. The corridors of history echo this thought emphatically. The greatest men and women who were able to change, inspire, and, lead were also the ones who started out firmly rooted in knowledge. Exemplary knowledge and understanding gives the power to entice people to follow a leader.

People: A captain is only as good as the team

A common phenomenon observed across any sport is that as time wears on, the individual at the helm is only as good as the team. The business arena is no exception. The best of captains play for and with the team—without getting too far ahead or keeping themselves first. This realisation will lead to honing the group’s individual as well as collective skills. This serves two basic purposes—first, the team gains expertise and is empowered to function independently and perform even in the absence of the leader. As the Chinese proverb goes—‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day but teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’.

Possibilities: Every business is a growth business

The most remarkable leaders are those who take charge and make the best of the situation they walk into. More often than not, the quest for manifold growth is solely contingent upon the thought process of a leader and not upon circumstances. Challenging limitations by visualising possibilities is the magic ingredient that can turn the direst scenarios on their head with strokes of positivity. And when a leader actively exhibits a winning attitude, it is only a matter of time before the whole team follows suit.

Strategy: Focus for success

Knowing where one wants to go, focussing on the goal and making crucial choices to get there helps ensure success. An effective leader is a sniper, not someone wielding a shotgun. A clear, simple, and measurable goal is the starting point to success. Once the destination is clear, making ‘choices’ or strategies to get there is key. Any ‘choice’ by definition has to be followed by action, with clarity on what is to be done and importantly what is not to be done!

Capabilities: The only sustainable competitive advantage

An organisation’s capabilities need to be cultivated and nurtured to ensure a sustainable competitive advantage. Focussing on areas of excellence or core capabilities will power the growth engine and lead to a winning position in the marketplace time and again. It is important to decide on the right capabilities to win and invest in building them, so the organisation can stay ahead and win every time.

Consumers: Understand them, everything else will follow

Developing a deep understanding of the consumer is essential to ensure continued growth, innovation, and competitiveness.  Getting to the root of the consumer’s motivations helps in understanding the consumer mind and behaviour. Analysing how the environment, including peers, media, and culture affects consumer behaviour, can lead to ideas on the business that are game-changing or breakthrough yet sustainable.

Thinking: Keep it simple

The human tendency is to complicate one’s thinking in a desire to be different. In an attempt to evolve, one may over-complicate things at times, losing out on an elegant solution arising from simplicity. Most good ideas were also the simplest in retrospect. A simple idea of say, ‘natural plant-based nutritious breakfast with your milk for those busy mornings’ i.e. cereals, created a multi-billion dollar industry or for that matter a ‘disposable pooh collector’ we now call diaper are great examples of this principle. When it comes to marketing, there are only two simple ways to build your business – ‘get more people to use you’ or ‘people to use you more’. It doesn’t get simpler than that.

Views are personal.

The author is managing director of Kellogg South Asia.

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