For an executive in a fast-growing digital firm, the rules of successful leadership are slightly different from those in more traditional organisations. Digital innovators must be agile and creative – they cannot afford to stifle entrepreneurial flair within their teams.
As a woman heading up such an organisation, where time to market is crucial, innovation is our differentiator, and delivery must be ensured across the sometimes-challenging markets across Africa. I have learnt that leadership style has to be firm, balanced and empowering rather than restrictive.
Five leadership approaches proving invaluable to me to encourage innovation and efficient delivery are:
1Creating a culture of mutual respect and trust
This is more important than confining people to policies and procedures. I have found that the more I model respectful and responsible behaviour, the less I need to micro manage the team.
People who feel appreciated and understood will always do more than what is expected of them. Staff who understand that the high standards you set apply to you as much as they do to everyone else, tend to take the same approach to their own teams and to their work.
2Build the right team from the start
During the early days of our business, we grew faster than we could staff up and I quickly learnt that taking extra time at the interviewing stage to ensure a good cultural fit is vital.
It is important to use recruiters who understand you, your business and the importance you place on company culture, to ensure that any candidates you consider can do the job and will also be the kind of people who infuse life into your business and not sound the death knell for it.
3Don’t lose sight of the little things
It’s tempting to focus all your efforts on navigating the large company decisions that directly impact the bottom line or determine future value, but I have learnt that keeping a keen eye on the detail is equally important.
This is particularly true for a new business that is growing quickly. Rapid growth creates its own issues, as structure and process don’t have time to be implemented and the funnel of work grows faster than the systems required to support it.
Taking the time to stay involved in the granular level detail of the business’s operations means that the correct foundation will be built for staff to flourish and for the business to deliver.
4There are no shortcuts
There are simply no shortcuts to success. Although I don’t expect my staff to work crazy hours or be available over weekends I do expect them to take pride in their work and be accountable for what they deliver. Nobody should have the mindset that something falls outside of their job description.
Success takes sacrifice, and anything worth doing is worth doing well and it is important to me that those around share the same point of view.
Communication is critical for successful leadership, and digital communications should not be overlooked. In an environment where almost all communication is digital, it is crucial to answer all emails timeously; and when you do, you need to watch your tone and guard against improper interpretation of your words.
Too often, people simply never respond to emails given their own workload, forgetting that their feedback may be hindering progress on another side of the business. I believe it’s crucial to carve out time every day to answer emails and provide feedback. Timeous responses mirror respect between team members and help create a culture of collaboration and accountability to others.