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What Fortune’s “100 Best Companies” Do Differently

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What Fortune’s “100 Best Companies” Do Differently

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 of 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.

This intention cannot be achieved without developing trust-based relationships by which human assets could share their knowledge and new ideas with others. So the question still arises that why is management and leadership so different. Henry Mintzberg, an author and scholar in the area of management at McGill University in Canada feels that they are not so different, and being a manager is being a leader. For example, management emphasizes more operational objectives rather than investigating strategic goals. Therefore, management has been highlighted as an authority relationship to maintain the status quo through coordinating and controlling subordinate activities. This is where scholars part ways. Once the status quo is mentioned, it appears that management is stagnant and overly consuming in nature. It is not, management and leadership are one in the same and to be a good manager a person has to also be a good leader.

The following table summarizes some distinctions between leadership and management. The table indicates a dichotomy of management and leadership but anyone can see that being both is much more important than being simply one or the other.

Leadership
Management
doing the right things doing things right
Coaching evaluating
taking a proactive approach taking a reactive approach
having a long-term perspective having a short-term perspective
enhancing trust controlling subordinates
Innovating performing functions
focusing on people focusing on structure
challenging norms maintaining the status quo

 

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 the 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 them. 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 way that this leadership may be valuable is because it sheds light on the critical role of employee’s 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 production and profitability of the organization but also the competitive advantage. This article blends scholarly concepts with real-world applications and provides real examples of how leaders in Fortune’s 100 best companies dramatically affect the way their companies perform their functions.

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Mostafa Sayyadi works with senior business leaders to effectively develop innovation in companies and helps companies—from start-ups to the Fortune 100—succeed by improving the effectiveness of their leaders. He is a business book author and a long-time contributor to business publications and his work has been featured in top-flight business publications. 

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Women Leaders Bring Diversity to Tech Companies

We need more women leaders in technology companies. Having personally experienced gender bias during my career, it’s hard for me to say this because the last thing I want to do is advocate for bias of any kind. The goal should always be to hire the best person for the job, and I don’t think having an x or y chromosome has anything to do with that.

However, when you look at the makeup of the workforce today, it’s hard to draw any other conclusion than we need more gender diversity in leadership. Making a conscious effort to find and elevate qualified women, especially in tech finance roles, is a good place to start.

Women hold more than half of the accounting and auditing positions in the U.S., but just 12.5 percent of CFO positions in Fortune 500 companies, and only 11 percent of executive positions in Silicon Valley companies. The need in the tech industry is acute.

Valuable qualities

Despite the scarcity of women in leadership roles, there’s no shortage of research on how women leaders are enabling businesses perform better across a wide variety of metrics. Why is that? What are women leaders bringing to the table that’s helping them drive better performance?

I think there’s an argument to be made that those who have experienced bias—be they women or any other underrepresented group—are likely to have developed some distinctive qualities in response. Some of these qualities are particularly valuable in a finance leadership role in a tech company.

Strong financial leadership is every bit as critical to a fledgling tech company as engineering, sales, or operations. One of the most important things finance does in an organization is use data and analysis to help business leaders see things they might not see otherwise. These are the folks who keep you grounded in the world of reality, instead of the world of hope and hype. Timely, accurate, unbiased financial information is important to understand the realities of your business and make changes quickly.

Finance becomes even more critical as your business grows and founders are not involved in every funding meeting or sales call. The finance team needs to step in and apply data and analysis to operating, sales, and business development decisions.

Trial by bias

I think there are four qualities that make someone really good at finance; the ability to listen and learn in an unbiased way, to look at things from a lot of different perspectives, to stay calm in stressful situations, and to withhold a bias from analysis.

The biggest challenge to overcoming bias is ourselves. Most of us are unaware of what our biases are and may even see ourselves as unbiased, which of course is not the case. We all have biases. I believe people who’ve personally experienced bias are more aware it exists, even in themselves, and are better equipped to guard against bias creeping into their thought processes. If you haven’t had a lot of experiences with bias, it’s less likely you’re going to recognize it when it’s happening.

Women in finance, tech, or fintech witness plenty of bias. We are almost always greatly outnumbered by men wherever we go. In such settings, I am often aware that not only does the group perspective differ from my own, but that it also comes as a surprise to the rest of the group that anyone would see things differently.

In these situations, it can be very challenging to offer a differing opinion. You have to have courage, your facts down cold, and do a good job of listening and understanding other perspectives. All while acknowledging you’ve considered other points of view as you articulate your own. These are great qualities for a finance leader to have.

People who rise from groups experiencing systemic bias have excelled in the face of greater challenges. It’s a kind of trial by fire. They’re often high achievers, because succeeding under those circumstances takes more determination. You have to be so good that you simply cannot be ignored.

Twice as good

One study of applicants to fellowship programs in biomedical sciences found women had to be 2.5 times more productive than the men to be seen as equally competent. A 2015 paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research found black workers get extra scrutiny from bosses, often leading to worse performance reviews, lower wages, and job loss.

So, if you’re considering hiring a candidate from a group that has experienced bias, recognize the person sitting in front of you may have had to work harder, overcome more obstacles, and achieved quite a bit more just to be in contention for that leadership role.

I’m not saying the qualities that make for a successful tech finance leader are exclusive to women, or that all women possess them. Also, women are not the only group we should be making efforts to elevate. But they are the largest group, encompassing a whole range of demographic, experiential, and cognitive diversity, making them a damn good place to start.

If companies want to innovate and differentiate, they need to start thinking differently about their workforce. Challenge your ideas about how leaders look, speak, and act. Focus on the qualities that make a person good in a role. Just about every industry claims to be facing a talent shortage, but there are large pools of talent right under their noses that are simply being omitted. In the hunt for the next generation of talent, overlooking large segments of the population is going to catch up with you. I’m betting on it.

Karla Friede is co-founder and CEO of Nvoicepay, the leader in payment automation software for the enterprise