Supportive Leadership – The 5 Basic Rules

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    (This is a guest post from Professor Günther H. Schust and is based on his free ebook “Supportive Leadership.”)

    More than two thirds of all problems in our society result from a decrepit leadership culture in economy and politics which allows indispensable profound reforms (i.e. climate protection, finance and tax legislation) and “green” technologies for our environment and thus a qualitative (and not just quantitative) growth to only a limited extent. The whole of Europe is deeply in dept. The standards of living and raw materials become more and more expensive. Nature and “deceived” people strike back because leadership elites show a high degree of inertia. Those responsible lack the capability to anticipate in time the necessary processes of innovation and change, to control and implement them.

    It is true that companies impart specialized competences, but they criminally neglect the training for key skills like competences regarding change, relations, creativity and leadership. However, it is exactly these skills which ensure a sustainable power of success of an exceedingly demanding society and a flexible employability of its people – even in critical times.

    Therefore, the role of tomorrow’s leaders will have to consist in establishing a systematic knowledge and innovation management in their companies and organisations, wherein executives and specialists will become qualified for developing a sense for intelligent and creative (team) work according to the respective situation – just as this is the case in (competitive) sports. Integrated thinking, acting in a way compatible with the environment, permanent learning – also from errors – will then become a part of all our lives.

    Let’s start with taking a look at five rules of “supportive leadership”.

    Rule no. 1: The employee dialogue

    Leading (= leadership) means to anticipate and to lead the way in an exemplary fashion. Management comes from “manus agere” (Latin) and means “to take by the hand, to help solve problems and to build up and cultivate relations”.

    The executive in the 21st century must be able to balance management and leadership and grant them equal status. Most companies, however, suffer from TOO MUCH management and TOO LITTLE leadership.

    A good manager does not have to score the goals himself but sees himself as the “coach of a team”, a team with which he agrees on “rules and milestones”, where he takes each individual member of the team along on this challenging “journey of the company” and consistently requires of the team member to make his contribution. In order to change peoples’ established ways of behaviour, thinking and style of play, a constant dialogue and goal-oriented (fitness) training must be carried on, because employees want to play an active role and want to be taken along on the road to the goal. It’s a question of awakening the employee’s enthusiasm for these goals / the desired results and /or visions. Keys for achieving this goal are honesty, openness, determination and constructive feedback.

    In order to be successful, however, it is of the utmost importance that the ‘team players’ are adequately qualified + trained + motivated to score the decisive goals or, respectively, to put the best ideas / solutions for the customer, the company and the environment into practice. When strategies are constantly changed, GOALS cannot be successfully achieved!

    Rule no. 2: The self management

    There is only one way to maintain the innovative lead over the competitors: To establish a process of renewal, based on abandoning the habit of following orders and on developing mutual trust. This cannot be achieved without trust between and reliability of the participants. In this context, to play it COOL means:

    C = Clearing: To clearly know what one wants to achieve (GOAL). What is especially important (set priorities!). Word the overall task / the topic / the problem / the GOAL (result) realistically and in writing.

    O = Obvious sorting: Break down the overall task into obvious milestones. These must be reached and controlled before tackling the next move. Everybody must be familiar with the delivery and pick-up principle.

    O = Organizing: Do I see to everything myself or do I look for people who will support me. I deal efficiently with my tasks and I do control the result. Only when I’ve achieved at least 80 to 100 per cent of my GOALS, can I say that I am successful.

    L = Learning + solving + changing: The topic/problem must be dealt with/solved as planned, the respective conclusions will be drawn from what was done right or wrong and the required changes will be made. To develop our potential and to grow (i.e. to learn) becomes only possible when we analyze our errors and successfully make changes and face challenges!

    Rule no. 3: The supportive leadership

    In the end, it will always be the executive’s behaviour which decides whether the company / the organisation have employees who are for or against them.

    In this context it is particularly important to create a climate which is motivating and value-oriented, and which has a constructive and acknowledging effect on the performance of the employees / executives. Constant learning from (project) tasks will suddenly become everybody’s goal when dealing with said task. This principle should also be observed by families, because nowadays only every second marriage / partnership lasts longer than three to four years.

    If interests and competences of employees are applied in such a way that the highest possible efficiency is achieved, both the company and the team player will profit from this principle. The performance (TO WANT and BEING ABLE TO) will every six months be validated by means of a performance report. This way, it is easier to identify under performers within the organisational units, to ‘take them by the hand’ and to support them. Each performer receives suggestions as to fitness and development, thus creating a WINWIN situation for everybody.

    Rule no. 4: Putting a systematic project management into practice

    More than two thirds of all problems arising in a company are caused by a lack of capability to realize projects. Only when interdisciplinary learning + mental fitness (of the young + the old) are firmly anchored in the training and the continuing education, a good cooperation can be maintained and changes can be successfully implemented. It is noticeable that many companies which have a successful relationship with their customers also have a strong, employee-oriented culture.

    In this context it is important that executives are informed about essential progresses or non-progresses and will then, when it becomes necessary, be able to apply a constructive (not a derogatory!) feedback. This way of proceeding, however, must be based on a canon of values with rules which will have to be complied with when pursuing the common goals.

    Conflictive issues of the project will then no longer be ‘swept under the carpet’ but will be dealt with and transformed into positive energy and dynamism. The ‘innovative resources’ will no longer be slowed down, but will be used to introduce new ideas and to put these into practice within the team. Scheming, status-oriented behavioural patterns will be stopped right away and, if necessary, be sanctioned.

    A study of the University of St. Gallen / Swiss proves that a chaotic project management entails billions in additional costs. Projects which fail, mainly fail because of a lack of requirements management

    Rule no. 5: Investments into personality development

    Employees are rarely able to apply new knowledge gained in seminars because there is no demand for such knowledge. A lack of transfer competence in companies prevents the sustainability of seminars + trainings. Companies should not just train people ‘reactively’, but should above all invest into the state-of-the-art personality development of all of the company’s key employees. Only then will they learn to think integrally, to respect themselves and others as well as our badly beaten planet (emotional intelligence).

    To ensure that renovation and growth potentials can be recognized + developed, companies and organisations must create a (virtual) campus for knowledge + innovation, where executives and specialists will be qualified and trained for developing a sense of ability to play and present solutions – just as this is the case in (competitive) sports. Acquisition and application of knowledge must be dealt with concurrently, and the focus of the training must be directed to key skills, like competences in relations, change, innovations and cultural skills. The daily, mental challenge on leadership consists of creating a quality relationship with the different personalities of the team. This is the only way to create a competent network culture – with a steep learning curve, wherein people enjoy hierarchy-free solution-oriented work (behavioural branding).

    This article is based on the free eBook “Supportive Leadership” written by Professor Günther H. Schust and published by Schust is a German Lecturer in Leadership, Personnel, Project and Innovation Management at the Universities of Applied Sciences in St. Gallen (Swiss), Zurich-Winterthur (Swiss), Kempten, Hamburg and Munich (Germany). Moreover, he is Co-Partner of IHH International Head Hunters Management- und Personalberatungsges. mbH, Munich.