Leadership lessons from the leaders of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies

Leadership, being a strong component of management, has manifested itself into the forefront of many executives and aspiring leaders. There are many academic studies that focus on the organizational and managerial factors that drive organizational competitiveness.

Leadership is one such area that plays a critical role and is a strategic prerequisite for business success in today’s knowledge-based economy.

However, some researchers critique the literature of leadership for having no relevance between leadership theories and today‘s changing business environment. Particularly, these authors feel that there are various issues and considerations existing in the leadership literature as the core of the criticism in the literature is that organizations of all sorts (corporations, government agencies and non-profit organizations) tend to be over-managed (and, in some cases, over-administrated) and under-led. Reading all the books on leadership today will cover the gamut from Shakespeare to Geronimo. Not to say that these authors, leaders and thinkers do not have anything good to say about leadership. It is just that the plethora of leadership literature has sent mixed signals to corporate leaders.

Today, the question remains: can leaders be made or do they have to be born leaders to be successful? Before attempting to answer this question, let us agree that leaders can be made and that being a born leader may be an additional attribute of leadership. This article aims at answering this central question. Scholars who are experts in leadership illustrate, in an attempt to differentiate the concepts of leadership and management, that while a leader acquires his competencies by embracing education, a manager becomes familiar with managerial activities by undergoing training.

The education system is more strategic, synthetic, experimental, flexible, active and broad when compared to training principles that manifest themselves in being passive, narrow and rote. Moreover, there is a profound difference between leaders and managers. A leader takes a proactive approach towards more strategic goals, and evokes expectations of followers and images for them to follow in the direction of influencing and coaching them. Leadership focuses on challenging the current norms and motivating employees. Followers, as intellectual capital, are trained to think about organizational issues in a more innovative and creative manner.

Today’s global expansion of business is constantly changing as organizations are increasingly participating in international markets. A new leadership approach may be necessary as the globalized market demands are increasingly difficult to adapt and sustain profitability. The emergence of global business environments drives companies to become world-class. Leaders in Fortune’s 100 best companies play a crucial role in achieving a high level of effectiveness and world class efficiency and effectiveness.

This article summarizes my experience of working with more than 30 Fortune’s 100 Best Companies. My experience says that organizational commitment, flexibility and innovation are necessary attributes to evaluate the success of organizations in global markets. In fact, effective leaders in 30 Fortune’s 100 Best Companies are highly characterized by enablers of organizational commitment, flexibility and problem-solving oriented.

The global markets represent cross cultural settings and require top management executives who can adapt to various environments successfully. A cross-cultural setting can enhance the employee’s organizational commitment through empowering human assets and developing an inspiring vision for future.

The major tasks of leaders in Fortune’s 100 Best Companies include:

  • Empowering employees;
  • Generating a shared vision; and
  • Creating fundamental changes at the organizational level.

Furthermore, sustained performance in global markets is dependent on continuous learning. Leaders in Fortune’s 100 Best Companies build a learning climate through identifying intellectual capital and empowering it. These executives also improve knowledge sharing and learning.

They are the most qualified executives that may be able to enhance organization performance in global markets through empowering human resources and enabling change. One reason that this leadership may be valuable is because it sheds light on the critical role of employees’ attitudes and values in implementing change. In fact, these leaders feature effective organizational change as a by-product of developing relationships with subordinates.

Leadership should be, therefore, embraced at the senior level of organizations to enable performance in globalized markets through implementing organizational change and developing a shared vision for future expansion into global markets.

Moreover, success in today’s global business environment can be more effective when leadership is applied to change attitudes and assumptions at the individual level and creating collective-interests for cultural adaptation. Leaders in Fortune’s 100 Best Companies generate a shared and inspiring vision for the future expansion into global markets, and then secure a foothold in the ever-expansive global marketplace.

In conclusion, executives began to listen and respond to the plethora of information in the form of articles, books and models, attempting to provide leadership to help impact not only the productivity and profitability of the organization but also the competitive advantage.

Mostafa Sayyadi is a Senior Management Consultant and Former Leadership Team Member of San Diego-based The Change Leader Consulting Inc. He is an Associate Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management, a Book Author and Business and Technology Journalist.

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