Instrumental Leadership in Global Business Services

July 28th 2017 - Friday

On a daily basis, we are exposed to topics of leadership. From the aisles of government to the offices of commerce, we seek leadership. Our pursuits call upon leaders of the past whose successes have given instantaneous acclaim for their profound leadership. However, we also see the assault on leadership from the rank-and-file that are in search of what they perceive to be leadership.

What is leadership or more specifically the instrument that we call a leader? There are numerous definitions that exist and most point to the characteristics that a leader should have. But is that really a definition or is it simply a personal depiction of what they perceive a leader to be. In pondering this topic, I tried to visualise the model that is comprised of two end points; a person who is followed (aka leader) and those that respond to the edicts of that person (aka the follower).

This definition is not limited to just people but can also relate to entities such as a company, country or even market. Leadership in these examples is earned and not bestowed, as might be the case when we deal with an organisational setting. Thus we have two ways in which a leader reaches this role, by earning it through value-based outcomes or through assignment.


Assigned Leadership

While we all assume that a leader has “earned” the role, it can also be heavily influenced by a need and the urgency of that particular need. Each of us can easily think of cases where you wonder how a person became the leader when there appears to be a lack of leadership traits.

It may be the case of earning the seat by tenure or opportunity and less about character traits. However, as a follower (or a person sitting on the sideline as an observer) our scorecard may be vastly different than the one being used by the leader’s leader. What we must come to realise is that a leader’s leader may not only be looking at the tactical implementation of initiatives but how those fit in with broader corporate objectives.

They may know more about matters of urgency and thus are looking for the traits of decisiveness, technical abilities and project delivery track records as key components needed in this newly appointed leader. All the while the contingent of followers are looking for a guide, mentor and someone who can appreciate their challenges. In short, it is the conflict between “action based decisiveness” and “cooperative support”.

 As we have read in the last few years, there has been ample discussions about the focus of generational attitudes on the leadership model. I’m not going to delve into each except to say that conditions will challenge each and every generation. There may be time for commanding groupthink, whereas at other moments a more pragmatic scientific approach is required.

Now, I’m a bit reluctant to say this but it is as important to know how to be a committed, effective, trusted and faithful follower as it is to be a responsible leader. This is not something that is easily achieved and will require you to transition your entire persona to fit varying conditions.

The leader who achieves acclaim through accomplishments is often lauded by others. You can’t take achievement away, but at the same time, we cannot assume that their style or approach is reproducible. There is always that hint that “right-place or right-time” was the factor that made it happen. It also should be noted that it is easy to reverse engineer elements into an outcome as the baseline for success.

But even in those cases, there are conditions, often undisclosed, that contributed to it taking place. Timing, budgets, corporate support, market readiness, human capital and the much allusive innovation often sits behind successful efforts. So the leader sits between the two ends of success; the followers (instruments) that will be put into action whether in a day-to-day operative setting or on a initiative-based venture and the leader’s leader who is commanding the leader as a follower.

It is important to realise that the question of transparency and awareness exists. How much is needed to invoke success or how little. This question is best considered when thinking about the ability to influence and the knowledge capability of the individual (or even group). During my career, I have had many occasions when the market should have known but the ability to convert was near to impossible because of fear of the unknown.

The value of transparency, even with a risk reduction roadmap, remained an obstacle. The information “fell on deaf ears” and failed to transition into strategic thinking, adding one more variable to a growing list that still had not been resolved. One can never, regardless of virtues, overcome these barriers. Leaders and followers may be called upon to engage in initiatives or support processes based solely on face value, and this commands massive trust.

Anyone who has sat in this role has had more than one hare-brained scheme dropped on their lap and was expected to carry it out. It is highly possible that you were right, if that is at all important, but being right isn’t the point. The point is about achieving a result as a leader in the face of all opposing odds and utilising the resources at your disposal.

As a professional, be it leader or follower, we are obligated to not only mature as professionals but also as individuals. It’s possible that the reason why older leaders are called upon for their wisdom may be because it is expected that they have reached a level of maturity. Life teaches us many lessons, most of which cannot be repeated because of the parties involved. Nonetheless, they took place, the story was written and the last chapter produced.

To reach maturity in the craft of following, leading, sharing and mentoring must occur. If your pursuit ended in college, your leadership desires ignored the development, then the outcome will produce substandard leaders. Ambition, interest and even technical skills are not enough to be a leader that is anything more than an expendable resource. Once you have served a purpose, your value is no longer worth the fallout from the elements that lacked the potential for leadership growth.

Education is important, but its value impact is achieved when used with the right leadership personality. The right tools will assist in achieving goals but if the talent is not there, then don’t expect to produce a world class painting just because you have an expensive badger hair paintbrush.


Global Business Services

The context of the Global Business Service (GBS) is a collective of organisations that are a resource to other institutions around the world, and not solely focused on domestic markets. The GBS model involves a spearhead, participants and market. Because of its disruptive emergence out of shared services and outsourcing paradigms, the ability of GBS to achieve formation has been circumstantial and not cohesively formed.

By this, we have engaged in numerous events and initiatives to hold onto the concept of GBS but have been a bit apprehensive to raise acclaim as the leader. I’m sure it’s a worthy bar room discussion as to why, but at this point, it’s more a matter of embracing the need for leadership, determining how that can be achieved and putting it into action.

Time and time again leadership contention becomes a leading barrier towards achieving worthwhile results. Organisations, vying for the leadership role, become a polarising effect.

In the meantime however, it is the target consumer who operates in their own independent sphere of needs and benchmarks. Are they the leader looking to direct or are they the follower of a supplier (or possibly even a market)? Often, it becomes an unsettled state in which neither party takes leadership but also neither one takes responsibility when issues arise.

The result isn’t just hampered outcomes, it creates negative emotions that may never turn positive (for example: mistrust, apprehension, disappointment, accountable failure and others). GBS awaits leadership from the onset with those institutions that deliver value based services. Secondly, there needs to be leadership in governance by those agencies and institutions that are crafting the channels of opportunity. A lack of leadership often results in a reflection of confusion, disarray and loss of opportunity.

Looking back on past ICT (Information, Communications and Technology) initiatives, the overlapping leadership of multiple organisations has caused failures to take place. Even more pronounced is that their durability remained only for the period of time in which instrumental parties remained in place.

Leadership isn’t about the rewards but about building capability for durable empowerment. In Southeast Asia, agencies vie for leadership of GBS, corporate suppliers are looking for and aggressively competing for leadership visibility, and employees are striving to become leaders while still in the embryonic stage. All the while, the consumers outside of the region are at a loss as to where to go or how to gauge the reliability of the organisations and services. So what needs to be done?

The first step in leading is to understand and objectively evaluate present conditions not only on the ground but also looking beyond the present. Without this self-directed examination, what will result is gross independence of organisations that continue to run autonomously. This will ultimately result in shallow depth of value generation and a narrow band of specialisation.

Secondly, we need to craft the most basic form of structure. This fundamental form will ultimately result in key initiatives to build corporate and organisational leadership through educational, editorial and trade events. The big question on most people’s mind is who should be leading GBS? I suggest that it does not have to be relegated to one leader and that there is ample room for leadership, as each bring to the table an ability that another may not possess. As is the case in government and business, while there may be one leader (such as “President” or “Prime Minister”), there still remains a cabinet and other regulating leaders that must be consulted and to which an agreement must be struck.

Finally, more attention must be directed towards whether the consumer is the leader or a follower or whether they are in fact a peer leader.

A peer leader has a span of leadership control, in this case the consumer having domain control to engage, monitor and see to service delivery outcomes. By comparison, the peer leader of the provider has domain control to engage, perform and deliver outcomes not simply because they are driven by contracts but because it is the right thing to do in order to sustain a productive relationship.

Yes, we have leaders by title, some by role and others by relegation of duties. But true leaders do not bask in the shade awaiting a provocation. True leaders engage and form action based upon conditions that exist or that are anticipated. It also should be acknowledged that followers play an essential role. Not only do followers deliver outcomes, but they are also play a role in continued sustained leadership. All must be ripened on the vine for one day to be harvested and brought forth to the next purpose in the food chain of leadership.


By: Jerry E. Durant is the Founder & Chairman of 3rdLAW.