New kind of leader emerges from economic downturn

by 12 Mar 2009

The current economic downturn is the ideal time to identify potential new leaders, according to Alcoa of Australia managing director Alan Cransberg.

If anything good can come out of the global financial crisis, he said that tough economic times will really set good companies and good leaders apart.

“Leaders will emerge, who might not have been noticed otherwise. Businesses will start to make decisions about who cuts it, versus others who were great leaders during the up times but who are not so good during the hard times,” he said.

Cransberg, who was speaking at a recent Australian Institute of Management event, also said that employee engagement is crucial in this time of economic uncertainty.

“In my experience an engaged workforce is more productive, and businesses with an engaged workforce are more profitable,” he said.

“It’s critical, especially as we manage our way through the global financial crisis, that leaders articulate a simple business strategy to align and engage their people with their business objectives.”

At Alcoa, he said people must understand where they fit in the puzzle, so their personal goals are clear and understood, which ultimately makes for a business that’s more likely to come out of the economic downturn stronger than it went into it.

“The challenge is this: people want to be motivated not manipulated, inspired not ordered, committed not obedient,” he said.

“I want our people to have the same passion as me and, as leaders, we need to inspire them to have that - rather than for them to feel it’s their duty to say yes to orders. I want our people to challenge us and be involved in the business success.”

He said Alcoa’s work/life balance philosophy played an important part in the company having high retention rates, with 60 per cent of Alcoa’s people having been with the company for more than 10 years.

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