Reputation is everything for leaders and their organisations
JSE-listed companies took a huge reputational hit this year, reported the recent 2012 RepTrak survey results. The survey measured the reputation of the largest listed South African companies, based on revenue. Principle of the survey, Dominik Heil, Managing Director at the Reputation Institute, touted a lack of business leadership as being the main cause for declining confidence in corporate South Africa. When one considers that 60% of a company's market value is attributed to reputation, it becomes clear that growing our leaders' reputations needs to be prioritised.
In order to grow our leaders' reputations so we can ensure good leaders and company reputations as well as a healthy market value, we firstly need to understand what influences the reputation rating.
Reputation is an emotional bond that is built by the leader through attributes and behaviour. Leadership attributes that make up this reputation, according to the RepTrak survey, include being strong and appealing, effectively managing, behaving ethically, creating value, communicating effectively and working towards making South Africa a better place. So how do we develop these attributes in our leaders?
Coaching and mentoring is a sure way to develop leaders that are strong and appealing. Many of the greatest leaders have mentors that help them build themselves and consequently their reputations. Coaching and mentoring is also a great way for leaders to learn and hone their management skills in order to be positively perceived as effective managers. There are also numerous training courses available for leaders, and eLearning is a wonderful tool that busy leaders can use in their own time. A programme like Harvard ManageMentor (provided by Harvard Business School Publishing), for example, is a phenomenal 'just-in-time' resource for both new and established leaders to use while working.
With regards to being perceived as behaving ethically, people follow those that they can trust. Hence leaders must include positive policies and procedures in their organisations that show that they are concerned with the South African Constitution, the law, and most importantly, the wellbeing of their people. They then need to see these through and make them a priority, not just offer lip service.
Creating value is all about delivery. Leaders need to show value by bringing in business and maintaining a healthy environment through good financial results. Great leaders add value in every way possible - motivating people, creating a positive environment, supporting teamwork and ensuring excellent business planning and delivery.
In an environment like South Africa where we have many languages and cultures, good communication is vital. Leaders need to be able to handle diversity sensitively and converse with different people in relevant and meaningful ways. They can improve this skill through understanding more about diversity through interactive visual media and by creating collaborative platforms for people from various cultural backgrounds, genders and generations to share their stories. They can also improve their verbal and written communication proficiency by subscribing to personalised online English programmes, like those offered by GlobalEnglish.
It's interesting but not surprising that employees want leaders that are striving to make South Africa a better and healthier country. South Africans are passionate about their country and expect their leaders to be too.
Leaders must motivate their teams to support the country, our cultures, our diversity and all the various wonderful things that make us who we are. In embracing our uniqueness, we are able to offer something special to the world.
Bearing all these attributes in mind, a leader will be aware that they are growing a positive reputation when those around them start to reflect supportive behaviour. This behaviour includes hearing only positive things while shutting out the negative, volunteering time to support community projects, donating money to assist campaigns and showing verbal support for environmental challenges we face in the world.
Ultimately, however, preparing for leadership should not begin at the top.
Leadership must be recognised in younger employees who should be earmarked and nurtured early towards becoming a great, healthy leader. Succession planning is essential for the survival of all organisations. When we grow leaders from the bottom up, we are able to develop leaders that are attuned to all the qualities necessary to lead. They will naturally develop those attributes that employees see as positive and in time a strong leadership reputation will translate into a positively perceived company brand. I challenge you as a leader today to look with authenticity at yourself and others in your organisation and ask whether you are living the brand attributes of your organisation.
Irwin van Stavel is the Senior Partner and Managing Executive at LRMG, a leading local Performance Agency.