The four places where successful and effective leaders look

The four places where successful and effective leaders look by Sello Helepi


Success in leadership is not negotiable. Leadership must always produce superior results. And these results must be sustainable. Every successful leader will tell you that to achieve success they had to keep their eyes on the right things and the right places. Too many inexperienced leaders fail to achieve success because they are focusing on all the wrong things. Leadership is about doing things right. Leaders who do things right all the time achieve sustainable results. Leaders also know that they achieve results through others hence their focus on building relationships, empowering others and encouraging them to be even better than themselves.


Successful leaders look at four places to create success. Leaders must have the skill of HINDSIGHT, looking back for lessons, continuous learning, innovation and how to do things better. Leaders do not look back to the past to apportion blame and to complain but rather to learn and help others learn and improve. They do not spend too much time looking at the past. They learn fast and move forward quickly. As a leader when you look back do not fail to also identify “how not to”. Many “how to” books have been written but every successful leader must write their own “how not to” to enforce their own learning. All successful leaders have testimonies of failure and how they learnt what not to do. These are the books we need today for our young leaders as we guide and mentor them into their own greatness. Hindsight in leadership is critical for learning.


Secondly, leaders must always scan the environment for what is changing and adapt. Here leaders must listen and accept feedback, both positive and negative, as clues about what lies in the environment including in their blind-spots. I call this skill, PERISIGHT. Peri is Greek for “around” or “about”. To achieve superior success as a leader you need to know what is going on around you.


It is often said that leaders are readers. Read the environment for clues of what is changing. Adapt accordingly and stay competitive. Disregard Perisight at the risk of being irrelevant and extinct. Successful leaders adapt fast to change. They embrace and love change. Often they initiate the change before it happens as they have been warned early about what is changing. They position themselves ahead of change. They are at the cutting edge of innovation and change. They do not fear change. They know when the market forces are moving. They are always at the right place at the right time because they used their Perisight.


Be observant about what is changing around you and position yourself, your business, your church, your organisation and your team in an advantage position. Doing a Porters Five Forces analysis model during a strategic planning process seeks to provide critical intelligence about what is happening and changing in the business environment. This is simple, adapt or die!


Many businesses that were once powerful and mighty are dead and buried today because they lacked good Perisight. Even if they got the clues they became too arrogant in their might and power. Today, we say how the mighty have fallen. Did the township entrepreneur not have this Perisight? Where are their businesses today? Did they fail to read the environment for clues and adapt? Who is running spaza shops in our townships today? Our entrepreneurs did not see the Asian tiger coming at the advent of democracy. I believe it is never too late for those who survived the onslaught to perfect the four skills mentioned here and to reclaim their markets with gusto. One just have to read a book by Nigerian author Chika Onyeani which I beg not to mention for its abrasive title to notice that the signs were there a long time ago. Another valuable author to read on the subject of China in Africa is Zambian economist, Dr DambisaMoyo. Remember that I said earlier that a leader is a reader. I recommend that as an aspiring leader you should start reading to know what is changing as it is often, if not always, committed to a written form somewhere, by somebody.


Thirdly, leaders must have the skill of INSIGHT about their inner capabilities, limitations, strengths and weaknesses and address their limitations and weaknesses by establishing alliances with those who can do compliment them. Successful leaders know that they are not some Superman who can averagely do everything. They focus on what they can do well, which is leading, and perfect it. They allow others space and time to do what they can do well, which is exceed their leader’s expectations, and perfect it. Know what you are not good at and let others who are good excel in it. When they do, recognise them. The human spirit thrives under recognition. Many businesses have failed because the leader could not trust their team to complement them and exceed their expectations.


Fourth, and lastly successful leaders have the skill of FORESIGHT. Successful leaders are good at articulating a clear vision and direction for their teams, businesses, churches and organisations. They are clear about the desired future. They spend most of their time working on their foresight, crafting vision, selling it, influencing others through communication to see what they see and making adaptations as they go along. They tell compelling stories of this possible future to everyone in their team, organisation, business or church, and even nation. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was very good at this. He made us all to believe his story and make it ours. The late Dr Matin Luther King jr. was also good at telling a compelling story that motivated and mobilised a whole nation with his famous “I have a dream” speech. Moses in the Bible had this Foresight about the Promised Land, describing it as “a land flowing with milk and honey”. The whole nation of Jewish captives in Egypt must have salivated at the thought of the Promised Land.


Does your vision as a leader cause your team to salivate or do they dread the future you are battling to paint. Where there is no vision people do perish. A leader without a vision is just wondering about and those who follow him/her are just taking a stroll. Without vision wherever they end up is always the right place.


These four places where successful leaders look they spur them into action. No place for complacency, mediocrity and procrastination. When you spend time looking at these places your people will surprise you with superior results. They will say, we must get there fast. And when they get there recognise them and celebrate them. Do not take the praise and the credit. Give them their sun to busk in its shine and glory.


Happy leading folks!


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