How leaders can get leadership wrong

Traditional tools of leadership are not doing the job for these times, one expert tells HRM Canada.

How leaders can get leadership wrong
In this day and age, leaders must look beyond command and control to shift engagement to a whole new level, according to Yamini Naidu, director of Yamini Naidu Consulting and author of the new book, Power Play.

“Command and control creates fear, stifles innovation, makes creativity disappear, and also stops people from using that discretionary effort which can make the difference,” she told HRM Canada.

Naidu added that she used to be an economist and senior leader, and she has seen how leaders can make mistakes when trying to be engaging and influential.

“One thing people tend to do is try and persuade people only through data, facts, figures and logic,” she said.

“Logic absolutely has a place in business, however while logic informs people it doesn’t necessarily shift behaviour.

“If logic did shift behaviour then nobody would smoke, and nobody would ever speed while driving.”

While being data-driven is very important, on its own it is not adequate. What’s missing, said Naidu, is how we grab people’s attention and emotion.

In particular, the competency of influence is very important for leaders. She cited a 2012 survey by the Corporate leadership Council who looked at 11,500 leaders across the globe and throughout a range of industries.

The key finding was that influence outranked every other competency that would be conventionally tied with leadership (such as decision making, delegation and creativity).

They also found that the business units that were headed up by leaders with very strong influencing skills outperformed other business units by an average of 30%.

Naidu added that leaders can do things more effectively around influence, one of which is realise the significance of ‘soft power’.

The American political scientist Joseph Nye pioneered the theory of soft power, which is very much about connecting, collaborating, and consulting to influence.

But soft power also has its limitations, one being that it is also a slow power.

“It takes time - meetings, meetings and more meetings,” she said.

“Soft power can be hard to do well, but it is important.”

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