Corporate leadership is little more than a contrived composite of management, administration and conformity. Hence the simplicity of training courses and the indoctrination tendencies of seminars not dissimilar to the proficiencies practised in dog obedience classes.
Despite the inundation of claims to the contrary, there is no publication, tutelage or self-proclaimed expert able or capable of producing the coveted human metamorphosis, the foundation of which originates from a trifecta of inclination, opportunity and experience.
At best they attempt to apportion theory or facilitate associated observation but never the ingenuity, which endears one person to follow another.
In essence, this leadership label is a misnomer for it is bestowed upon a few by a select elite rather than earnt serving the many. Sadly and with a dash of irony most corporate, business and industry leadership caption amounts to nothing more than an oxymoron.
Leadership needs to epitomise character and possess a moral compass with ethical qualities amounting to unequivocal integrity. A charisma to captivate, the charm to unify and the power to influence for both individual and collective thus inspiring devotion and dedication. Complete with a candid impartiality, open-mindedness and the courage to pioneer change.
Precious few businesses tolerate, let alone encourage true leadership, perceiving them as disruptive to culture and counterintuitive to predetermined goals. The current underlying resistance to this crucial constituent lies within the insecurities of the individual who deflect their deficiency via networks, teams, boards and shareholders. Harbouring an inherent fear of losing control – an instilled acquiescence of preordained boundaries – an angst against vying for people’s esteem.
By choice, many a leader steers well clear of the mendacity encountered at senior management levels. Oftentimes perturbed by obsolete hierarchy conceptions vigilantly safeguarded by the same upper echelons. Preferring the fray at the rock face where guidance, mentorship and skills are appreciated, where learning and self-development amongst the fertile environs of everyday life are assured. Where the norm is challenged and decisions interrogated, where passion and exuberance are ignited by mutual respect and understanding.
Retail is no exception to such grave delusion and presumption.
The relentless quest for silver bullet remedies via technology and psychobabble aim to lure the fickle customer in an effort to offset plunging profits. Futile if the fundamentals of meaningful leadership are not embedded. All the more poignant today is ensuring ‘the right people are in the right place at the right time’. The flouting of this principle differentiates the successful from the mediocre by virtue of an unparalleled competitive edge.
So what are the non-negotiables on the shop floor? A leader (store manager) who is a seasoned retailer accountable for culture and customer experience. Supported by leaders in their fields (sales, merchandise, logistics) who are passionate about what they do, whom they lead and how they mentor. Culminating in a team of experts who exceed customer expectations with enthusiasm and solution. The archaic retail ‘jack of all trades’ approach is counterintuitive to individual and communal morale, productivity and outcome alike. Invest the time to nurture strengths and embolden the zeal of the individual before accepting the mediocrity of the group so others might pursue the same.
Foster the specialist’s intuition whilst always striving toward a culture of innovation and verve so as to entice the diaspora of instinctive leaders into the industry. Just as a pilot flies a plane, a sea captain steers a ship so must a retailer roam the floors and incite theatre without the detrimental stipulations of modern-day bureaucracy and compliance.
Consequential retail leadership is about the people, for the people, by the people.
Dave Farrell is a retailer and writer with three decades of experience on three continents. He can be reached at Freelance Alliance NZ on firstname.lastname@example.org.