With leadership failings cited as the most common reason for the failure of business transformations, we asked specialist leadership coach and mentor Rose Padfield for the qualities she thinks boards should be looking for at the top of their organisations.

Inadequate leadership is cited as the major reason for the failure of most major business transformation initiatives. Here, specialist coach and mentor Rose Padfield sets out the qualities she believes boards should be looking for at the top of their organisations.

Boards frequently operate under the false belief that an egocentric, larger-than-life leader is needed to make a company great.

Although it's counter-intuitive, all long-term 'great' companies are actually led by an ego-less executive where "deep personal humility blends with intense professional will". Truly great leaders all possess the humility needed to dedicate their energy to something larger and more sustaining than themselves. In short, they put the organisation's needs above their own.

Here, from my experience, is where the best leaders focus their time:

1. Set the vision and direction

As the leader, you are accountable for the performance of your business, so you need to be forward-thinking. This aspect of the role comprises three components:

To determine what the vision is

To communicate it clearly so people understand it

To inspire people to want it and believe that it's possible

You should create the vision with your people, make it aspirational, and get them pointing in the right direction.

2. Influence the organisational culture

Organisational transformation begins with the personal transformation of leaders.

The leader has the biggest influence on the cultures and behaviours that the organisation adopts. Whatever they do is filtered down to everyone else. People will model the behaviours of the leadership; therefore you have a responsibility to think through and role model the behaviours you want to see mirrored within your organisation.

3. Empower your people

Self-motivated and self-disciplined people are your greatest asset. A leader should focus on growing their people and creating the optimal working environment for them to perform and be motivated. Get the right people on the bus and in the right seats (and the wrong people off the bus). That is, recruit the people with the skills and attributes you need and deal with under-performers in a timely fashion (delaying is rarely effective).

Put people first and strategy second. Not "let's be passionate about x", but "What are we passionate about? Let's do that."

4. Know your stuff

Make sure you have the right level of knowledge for what you need to do. As the leader, you don't need to know everything about everything but you do need to know enough to be credible and make informed decisions. As you go up the ranks you may lose depth of technical knowledge but you will gain strategic focus.

Know the context you're working in, for example, what the business is trying to accomplish and how you can best add value, and what's going on externally so you can keep ahead of the game.

5. Face reality, optimistically

The Stockdale Paradox is named after James Stockdale who was held in a Vietcong PoW camp, where he maintained two contradictory beliefs: his life couldn't be worse than it was at the moment, and his life would someday be better than ever.

Like him, a leader's role is to deal with the current reality no matter how painful it may be, while remaining optimistic about where you'll end up. Confront the facts, but never lose faith.

Rose Padfield leads The Padfield Partnership. She is a Fellow of the CIPD, a graduate of Corporate Coach University, holds a Masters degree in Strategic HR, and is certified to use a wide range of tools including OPQ, MBTI, EI, Firo-B, Archetypes, Hogan Personality, Development and Motives & Preferences inventories, and Cultural Transformation Tools. She is also a certified NLP Practitioner and certified Time Line Therapy Practitioner. Rose recommends further reading 'Good to Great' by Jim Collins, which she has referenced in this article.

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