Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

by Richard Martin

At the beginning of this new year, among the economic priorities in Quebec must be included the improvement of leadership and an increased investment in human capital with the aim of increasing permanently the productivity and profitability of small business in Quebec. This will help attract greater capital to our small businesses for purposes of investing in new techniques and technologies. Greater profits also would allow small business to increase wages and salaries, which will affect positively its capacity to attract qualified employees and managers, who would then be dedicated and loyal to their employers.

According to Statistics Canada, small business constitutes 92% of all private sector employment in Quebec. This surpasses somewhat comparable figures for the rest of Canada and, by far, figures for other G7 countries, including those of the United States. The predominance of small business in our economy explains in a large measure the relatively low productivity and profitability of Quebec companies and their limited capacity to attract investment. Small business in Quebec must compete against competitors who feature much greater economies of scale. These economies permit greater and quicker return on investments in research and development and capital goods including application of new, high technology.

Surveys by the federal Business Development Bank (BDC) clearly demonstrate that the two greatest problems for leaders of small business in Quebec are the shortage of capital for investment projects and the necessity of increasing long term profitability. Obviously, one can’t happen without the other. In short, small business is the motor of both the Quebec and Canadian economies, but it competes in a hostile environment where big business enjoys important economies of scale making it more productive and profitable.

Furthermore, in addition to imperatives of competition, productivity, and profitability, increasingly small business in Quebec has to compete with big business for skilled workers and managers who are becoming rarer, hence, the object of greater competition. There is nothing new about interesting pay and working conditions for attracting personnel. Moreover, some big businesses now offer their staff the possibilities of unlimited vacations and allowing employees to work a part of their paid employ on useful projects of the employees’ choice. Small business in Quebec must not only compete for clientele but also for the best workers and managers.

In spite of all this, small business in Quebec does have one superior advantage. What might appear to be a weakness can actually be a strength. Big business can display a tendency to become bureaucratic and slow to change direction. It can also become disconnected from customers, employees, and business allies and partners. On the other hand, small business can substitute cohesion, speed, adaptability, and agility to the size advantages of big business. In order to survive and prosper, small business in Quebec must employ its size to its advantage. The shareholders of a small business can often include its founders, or its second or third generation owners, besides operating as its leaders. If they know how to lead and mobilize their personnel, an entrepreneurial spirit and culture can thrive at all levels of the company. The business’s leaders, whether they be company founder or son or daughter or even grandchild of the founder, shareholders, or managers working for company owners, can easily get to know all employees. This can allow them to appreciate their strengths and shortcomings, talents and individual goals in order to obtain their best possible performance by supporting employees’ personal and professional development.

Exceptional leadership and organizational mobilization thus can constitute significant competitive advantages for Quebec small business. For this to occur business owners and leaders must produce useful, mobilizing mission statements. They must lead their employees towards ever-increasing levels of quality, productivity, and profitability. Businesses wherein leaders know how to breathe the entrepreneurial spirit into their companies while setting good collective objectives and encouraging individual initiative can be flexible and able to recognize and pursue opportunities and to resist threats. This will permit short term increases in productivity without immediate recourse to capital investment. The resultant, increased profitability can happen more quickly. Increased profits can be directed to improving pay and benefits, greater investment in human capital, in addition to technological productivity. This can also make companies more attractive to new labour and managers, which can further increase productivity, thus, profitability.

Two examples serve to display the links between leadership and mobilization and increased quality, productivity, and profitability. Firstly, assume an employee knows his or her essential role in the business. Such is an employee’s dedication and motivation that he or she will treat customers well with courtesy and professionalism. As well, an employee who recognizes the need to economize rare financial and material resources will be able to recognize and indicate waste, and seek to eliminate it.

In a second example, a well-motivated and mobilized employee will know and understand the vision and mission of the company. The employee knows where its leaders wish to lead the company. Using these, the employee can propose new ideas with respect to products, customers, techniques of production, and the sharing of information and knowledge within the company. This will be the case especially if he or she knows the ideas will be valued and implemented. These ideas need not imply additional financial layout; for example, a new method on the production line might bring savings and improved quality and quantity of products.

In fact, capital investments simply materialize someone’s previous, good ideas external to the company. The good leader can transform good industrial relations to company objectives. Only a few large companies can so motivate their employees—for instance, Apple or Google—but these are only transitory phases in the lives of these companies that are often provoked by inspirational, charismatic leaders. All the above principles are available to small business in Quebec. What is needed is the necessary will to undertake the required changes.

Richard Martin is a management consultant and trainer living in Montreal who works locally, nationally, and internationally. He is the co-founder and president of the Montreal-based Canadian Academy of Leadership and Development of Human Capital (CANLEAD Academy). He envisions performing organizations that are lasting, cohesive, and adapted to change that invest in human capital. Mr. Martin assists ambitious entrepreneurs and leaders surpass themselves in terms of organizational cohesion, growth, and performance. His advice and training come from a long career building, leading, and mobilizing organizations composed of Quebeckers. Much of his experience was gained as an officer in the Canadian Army operating peace support missions, conflict management, humanitarian assistance and reconstruction in hostile environments that were uncertain, risky, dangerous, and chaotic. In such environments dedication, cohesiveness, and inspired teamwork were essential to the success of missions.

© 2018 Richard Martin. Copying and sharing permitted subject to normal attribution.

Copyright: Tomas Marek | 123 Stock Photo

by Richard Martin

“Then you, or anyone else who is to be ruler and trustee, not only of himself and his private business, but also the city and city’s business, must first acquire virtue himself.” Plato, Alcibiades

The Alcibiades was considered in Antiquity to be the entry point to Plato’s philosophy. Although studying his works eventually led to esoteric discussions on the nature of ideas and reality, i.e., metaphysics, the process was all in the service of determining who should lead in public life, how they should be educated and selected, and how they should actually lead and manage the affairs of state.

The recent spate of revelations of abuses by prominent leaders in business and other areas shows that the question of ethical and virtuous leadership is still alive and remains as pertinent as ever. The emphasis on political leadership in the Alcibiades and Plato’s other works should not blind us to the relevance of this wisdom for the exercise of leadership today, no matter what the field.

Alcibiades was a real historical figure in 5th century B.C. Athens. An aristocrat by birth with the most noble lineage, extremely wealthy, physically attractive and charismatic, Alcibiades was destined and entitled, or so he thought, to lord it over his fellow Athenians. He didn’t start the destructive Peloponnesian War against Athens’ deadly rival Sparta, but he was instrumental in prolonging the struggle and convincing the assembly to launch an ill-fated punitive expedition against the Greek-Italian city-state of Syracuse. When the operation started to go pear-shaped, Alcibiades jumped ship (literally), and defected to Sparta, and eventually Persia, Athens’ supreme nemesis. His boundless ambition and egotism led him to repeatedly switch sides and led to his ultimate assassination, as even the Persians’ grew to distrust him.

Plato’s dialogue Alcibiades ostensibly presents a conversation between Socrates and a youthful Alcibiades on the cusp of manhood. As summarized by translator and editor D.S. Hutchison,

“Socrates feels the time has come to approach Alcibiades and bring him into his intellectual and moral orbit. It is Alcibiades’ lust for power that Socrates appeals to, promising that Alcibiades will never amount to anything without his help. In the discussion that follows, Alcibiades is brought to see, very reluctantly, that he knows nothing about moral values or political expediency and that he needs to cultivate himself assiduously in order to realize his enormous ambitions. But what is the ‘self’ that he needs to cultivate? It is his soul, the ruler of his body. The virtues of the soul that he needs to acquire are the intellectual skills that give it the authority to rule, over its body and over other people as well.”

In a later work, The Republic, Plato shows Socrates presenting what those virtues should be: courage, justice, temperance, and practical wisdom, i.e., the judgment to know what to do, when to do it, and to what end. To take Harvey Weinstein as the most revealing example of how to break all of those principles, Weinstein himself showed little moral courage; he preyed on women who were ambitious and prone to accept his abuses and advances in order to further their careers. Quentin Tarentino, his long-time collaborator, has admitted to his lack of courage in turning a blind eye for decades on Weinstein’s lasciviousness. Weinstein’s injustice is obvious, as is his lack of temperance and self-control. He was a slave to his passions. As for practical wisdom, his exploitative strategies eventually turned against him. Uma Thurman recently tweeted that a bullet was too quick for him, implying that he deserved to suffer a long and humiliating downfall.  I’ll leave others to judge the wisdom of her own attitude.

My point, however, is that Weinstein is a modern-day Alcibiades. He couldn’t rule his own desires, his “soul”; in the process, his exploited, degraded, and abused subordinates and business partners. We can add his name to a long list of others in recent years who have illustrated themselves by their lack of a moral compass. If, in the final analysis, one can’t lead ethically, with wisdom and justice, then one shouldn’t lead at all.

© 2017 Alcera Consulting Inc. This article may be used for non-commercial use with proper attribution.

Copyright: baldyrgan / 123RF Stock Photo

Voici mon premier article, intitulé « Le capital humain : Richesse ultime de l’Afrique », paru récemment dans le magazine Diplomat Investissement. Vous pouvez aussi le télécharger en version PDF.

Here’s the link to my February 2017 column on Defence Leadership or download as PDF.

Here’s the link to my April 2017 column on Defence Leadership or download as PDF.
  • There are three types of competence: knowledge, skills, and attitudes.
  • People want to follow leaders who are competent and able to lead them to victory and
    achievement.
  • The Leadership Competence Pyramid has three levels: management, inspiration, and change.
  • Management often gets short shrift or is seen in opposition to leadership, but it is an integral
    part of a leader’s competence toolkit.
  • The idea that you can be an effective leader while being a so-so manager is a myth. Leaders
    must be effective at planning, organizing, directing, executing, and controlling.
  • Knowledge is fairly easy to acquire, but what differentiates truly competent leaders is the
    ability to perform at and beyond expectations. This requires diligent and constant practice and
    skill development.
  • You need a growth mindset and a commitment to learning to lead and to develop your
    leadership competencies.
  • We can’t earn the respect and confidence of followers, peers, and superiors, unless we believe
    in ourselves and are truly committed to growth and improvement.
  • We need self-respect and self-efficacy to overcome the roadblocks to becoming truly effective
    leaders.
  • Confidence and respect are built over time by competent performance of our duties as leaders.

Richard Martin is The Force Multiplier. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

Since the IS-perpetrated terrorist strikes in Paris there has been surge of “advice” and debate on the best strategy to adopt against the Islamic State in the Middle East. The problem is that most of the discussion confuses tactics with strategy and then presents these as mutual exclusive. Air strikes are not effective. No, air strikes are the way to go. No, we need to put boots on the ground. Actually, no. We need to concentrate on humanitarian action.

In reality, all of those approaches are needed in order to create dilemmas for IS and its operatives. You have to take the fight to the enemy by seizing and maintaining the initiative. Air power must be combined with ground forces in order to achieve maximum synergy and effect on the battlefield. You can knock out a command post, but that only creates a delay and temporary confusion. You can buy a bit of time, but it’s all much more effective when you can hit a command post and use the ensuing confusion to launch a ground assault. Moreover, you have to realize that a command post is a physical entity, but a headquarters with its commander and staff are a team. Command, control and communications (C3) can be degraded, but it is much harder to eliminate them entirely, especially if the enemy has a very decentralized structure with competing factions.

Here is a non-exhaustive listing of other thrusts in the strategy:

  • Economic warfare to disrupt the enemy “home front” such as it is,
  • Financial warfare to disrupt and interrupt the flow of funds, because gold is the sinews of war,
  • Humanitarian aid to support the non-belligerent population and refugees,
  • Psychological warfare against foreign and home-grown terrorist threats,
  • Information warfare to degrade the enemy’s psychological and media warfare capabilities and build up domestic and foreign support to fight IS, and
  • Numerous other aspects of combat, kinetic and non-kinetic.

The basic point here is that you need a strategy that attacks and “pinches off” IS wherever it tries to operate. IS combatants in a theatre of war must be treated as prisoners of war, while those who have perpetrated war crimes and crimes against humanity must be treated as such. IS and allied terrorists operating in other nations must be treated as criminals.

Another critical point is to realize that there is no such thing as a “war on terrorism.” You can fight an identified enemy, opponent or belligerent group. You can’t fight a tactic, much less a vague concept.

Richard Martin is The Force Multiplier. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.