Quality of Care Ltd

The Leadership Building Block

Leadership is a one of the fundamental building blocks a business needs if it is to achieve long-term success.

The right strategy will provide certainty and control that comes with knowing what to focus your efforts on, the route you need to take and being prepared for what you may encounter along the way.

But the right strategy has to be created and well executed. Without you there will be no strategy and no execution. It’s strong leadership that will turn your aim into a reality.

Without strong leadership a strategy plan will be weak and poorly executed. Your strategy plan can show you the way but only you (and your people) can get you there.

Without a clear strategy, it doesn’t matter how good your leadership qualities are, you have no sense of purpose, no direction, no destination, and no way of preparing for the hazards ahead. These building blocks need each other to work.

History is littered with great ideas and products that never made it past the first three years because the business leaders hadn’t prepared for the journey and hadn’t established a solid foundation to build on. They were leaders because of the positions they held, but they weren’t good strategic leaders.

What leadership qualities are required to build and successfully implement a strong strategy and foundation? These leadership qualities are generally divided into the attributes that you’re born with and which can be developed and skills that you can learned and honed.

In our early career we are usually employed for our skills and expertise rather than for our attributes. I was employed by Marconi because I knew how to design silicon chips, not because I was a good laugh. My wife was employed as a nurse because she was qualified as a nurse and knew how to fix people and not because she had the attributes to be able to lead a team.

But as we mature and ‘progress’ in our careers we’re looked on by our employers to supervise and manage other less experienced colleagues. My wife led teams, managed wards, departments and finally a care home.

My roles gradually became less technical and more commercial, managerial, and business focused. I was still in the same industry and my knowledge gave me the foundation I needed to hire the right people with the necessary engineering skills, understand the needs of customers and talk their language and translate the features of new semiconductor products into benefits that sales teams could present to prospects.

To do my job well I needed to be able to develop and manage teams of people, build relationships with customers and suppliers, negotiate, inspire, and communicate well at all levels. My leadership skills and attributes became more important than my academic and engineering skills and attributes.

Attributes and skills aren’t separate groups that work independently from each other. They influence and support each other. For example, having a high level of self-reliance (attribute) will support your engineering skills and ability to solve problems. Self-awareness and empathy (attributes) will support your communication skills and ability to inspire others.

As particular skills improve so too can certain attributes, which in turn can affect other skills. As my engineering skills improved so did my confidence, (attribute) which in turn had a positive effect on other skills such as communication and creativity.

The image below shows these core leadership attributes and skills that are vital for growing a successful business. It shows key attributes at the centre with essential skills surrounding them and stemming from them.

Around the outside, I show further skills and attributes, which can be developed from these core attributes and skills.

Attributes and skills

With experience and training, newer skills are forged and refined. For example, with the right attitude, increased self-confidence and empathy, a young manager improves her communication and relationship skills, which makes her a better manager.

The skills that you develop and refine and the attributes that are inherent in you, will help you apply your attention and direct the attention of others.

That’s essentially what leadership is all about. It’s about being able to focus your attention on what’s important, what needs to be done, which direction you need to be headed and being able to bring together everyone else and direct their attention in the same way.

We need more good leaders at the top because too many cause untold damage before moving on.

When George Simpson took over GEC from Lord Weinstock in 1996, he decided to sell off GEC’s defence electronics and power generation divisions, its core businesses, and focus on telecoms. GEC owned the Marconi brand and renamed itself Marconi plc. and Simpson went on a shopping spree, buying up expensive telecoms companies in the US and plunging the company into huge debt.

In 2001 the company had an estimated value of £35 billion. Within 12 months it had plummeted to £807 million. In 2002, when Lord Weinstock died, the company he had built was £2.1 billion in debt and valued at £100 million. The company eventually collapsed in 2006 and despite his disastrous record, Simpson walked away with a £1 million golden handshake.

It’s not just at the top where better leadership is needed. Good leadership throughout an organisation is vital.  We need good people who can manage themselves, have the right attitude, do a good job and become future leaders.  Organisations lucky enough to find and hire these people don’t want to then lose them because of lousy middle managers who feel threatened by these people, who de-motivate and who create bottlenecks.

You need leaders who can hire and nurture and promote those who possess the quality attributes your care home business needs, rather than those who simply have “relevant skills”, or who have been around for a certain number of years or those whom, those doing the hiring, like.

You need leaders whose skills and attributes contribute to the strength of the foundation that you have worked so hard to build.

As the care home owner and/or registered manager, you are the face of the care home to those outside and should be an inspirational force to those within. You must stand at the helm and know that where you lead others will follow and that when you speak others will listen. You must be impressive, credible, and trusted.

Leaders come in all shapes and sizes – you don’t need to be charismatic or an extrovert, you don’t need to emulate Richard Branson or Steve Jobs – but what they have in common is that they have fundamental traits that most of us have and learn how to nurture, refine and use them as needed.

With these leadership qualities and with the right values you should be a strong leader who is able to create the right strategy, set the direction, focus everyone on that direction and keep your ship on course.

Set yourself rules for working that helps you focus on the big things that need to be done, on what’s right for the organisation and on how you’ll drive your company forward. Build a system that ensures you hire, develop and retain the kinds of people who can do the job and can be future leaders throughout your organisation.

Billionaire investor, Warren Buffet said investing in yourself is the best investment you could make. Usually, we’re so busy building and running our businesses that we neglect to invest in ourselves. But we need to so that we can be more productive, more creative, more efficient and effective, better communicators, better listeners, better negotiators, better decision makers.

As a leader, invest in yourself, invest in your people and invest in your time.

To be that successful leader your business needs you need to be able to step back from your business. To do that successfully you need your business to run effectively without you in it daily – that’s the systems building block a strong foundation needs and the 3rd building block of a strong business foundation.