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Licensing leaders to get the best out of business
 

 

We live in a world where many professionals have to be licenced in order to practice their profession. Think, for example, of teachers, pilots, surgeons, clinical psychologists, and lawyers, to name but a few. This is because their roles are either very technical, specialist, or possess the potential to have a significant impact on society. Standards, morals, values, ethics and professional practices are central to their positions.

 

If we look at the role of corporate leaders, they too are required to demonstrate the right values, ethics, morals, and professional practices expected of an individual who leads an organisation, is the face of that organisation, and epitomises everything good about the organisation. However, all too often their practices and behaviours go unchecked. The inherent danger is that, despite annual appraisals, competency frameworks, and performance reviews to measure corporate leaders by, their status as a leader in the organisation - and the legitimate power this obviously affords them - can override the requirement for accountability through any form of annual review. Leaders can - and do - have a significant impact on organisations and their people, creating environments that range anywhere from toxic and mistrusting to healthy and inspiring.

 

We have all seen and read about many incidents of corporate malpractice that have taken place around the world. These are often followed by a public apology, a severance settlement for the outgoing CEO, and the promise of a hefty bonus for the incomer if they manage to restore their new company’s reputation in the eyes of their shareholders, stakeholders and consumers. Unfortunately this does not always address the problem. Perhaps, then, the time has now come to consider developing a framework for the licencing of senior leaders - not just locally but globally, given many leaders today operate on a world stage.

 

So what might this look like?

 

The UK’s Chartered Management Institute (CMI) offers chartered status to those managers and leaders who demonstrate and exemplify best practice, and maintain current CPD records to show their commitment to continuous improvement. This could provide a foundation. However a more robust framework would require corporate leaders to provide evidence of leadership practices, coupled with feedback from subordinates, peers, customers, and shareholders, and would also quantify their contribution to the organisation and its well-being. Of course, introducing such a concept and practice may well be a challenge, but it should not readily be dismissed – it really might not be as crazy as it might sound.

 

There are certainly numerous reasons why such an approach would be good for business and consumer confidence - be it ethical, professional or economic. However the main benefit of introducing such an approach would be to provide greater transparency – where corporate leaders are accountable for their actions through licencing and regulation. Governance would be fundamental to its implementation and success, and may be managed through Ministries, Chambers of Commerce, or Departments for Economic Development, supplemented by links to industry sector councils to share best practice, and review licencing criteria as practices evolve.

 

As innovation continues to be a key component of business strategies, creating the right environment for people to be creative and express their ideas remains a challenge for many organisations. Senior corporate leaders have a key role to play if innovation is to become reality, rather than simply part of the organisational vocabulary, where the unique skills of employees are leveraged and utilised across the organisation. This requires an environment built on trust, empowerment and a blame-free culture where leaders serve rather than control, support rather than lambast, and inspire rather than condemn.

 

Healthy organisations don’t just happen: it takes effort and depends, in the main, on the values, behaviours and attitudes of senior leaders, and their commitment to hold themselves accountable for their actions to their profession, industry and people. Perhaps it could be as much about undergoing an annual leadership practices health check, where a consensus is formed on the definition of what healthy and effective leadership looks like, and requires a will and level of courage from leaders to practice it.

 

At the end of the day, leaders get the culture they create, while employees have to navigate their way through what results. Having a licence to lead might sound more James Bond than practical business approach, but perhaps licencing leaders locally, internationally, and globally could just be the one pioneering idea 21st century leadership has been waiting for.

 

Michael Castle is Executive Development Director at Abu Dhabi University Knowledge Group (ADUKG)

 

Reference: Gulf News