Reputation is critical for leaders

2012-10-26 00:00

THE reputations of JSE-LISTED companies took a hit this year, as shown in the recent 2012 RepTrak survey results.

The survey measured the reputation of the largest listed South African companies, based on revenue.

Head of the survey, Dominik Heil, MD 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 an estimated 60% of a company’s market value is attributed to reputation, it becomes clear that growing a leader’s reputation needs to be prioritised.

In order to do this 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 Manage Mentor (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 regard to being perceived as behaving ethically, people follow those whom 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.

It is interesting, but not surprising that employees want leaders that are striving to make South Africa a better and healthier country.

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.

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.

Irwin van Stavel is senior partner and managing executive at LRMG, a leading performance agency.

Irwin van Stavel

Leaders need to be able to handle diversity sensitively and converse with different people in relevant and meaningful ways

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