• July 10th, 2020

Opinion: Are you being served?


From 1972 to 1985, television viewers enjoyed over sixty episodes of the hilarious situational comedy, Are You Being Served? It made fun of the misadventures of the staff of a retail floor of a major British department store.

   It is worth mentioning that the pilot episode was rushed onto air in September 1972. This was after a Palestinian terrorist group killed eleven Israeli Olympic team members and a West German police officer during the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics. Even though it is not quite the best alternative programme, Are You Being Served? alleviated the disturbance that would have occurred in programming. It also enjoyed a successful run because it showed human foibles and frailties.

It is argued by management students that “being a maverick is a decided advantage – and becoming more so. ‘Out of the box thinking’, as the jargon goes, has become more valuable now that many companies can do the basic things perfectly well, and mundane products can be copied instantaneously.”   

   Leadership strategist Jeff Boss recounts an experience from one leadership seminar he led. He deliberately dropped most of the participants with high-sounding titles and focused on the junior members.
   Boss reckons that it is important to validate people by reminding them that “it’s who you are that is more important than what you are.”

“What you are refers to your rank, position or title; who you are refers to your character – humility, integrity, openness to new ideas and service to others.” He argues that leadership is best exemplified by a person who is able and willing to learn, be courageous, tackle difficulties head on, and question the status quo if need be.

The former and late American president Ronald Reagan once defined status quo as “Latin for the mess we are in.” Among other things, Reagan is remembered for the shrewd diplomatic relationship he formed with the reformist Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, which eventually contributed to the fall of the Berlin Wall. One of the great lessons for the leader who wants to learn and show courage is to remember that while change is inevitable, growth is intentional.

David Kozlow writes that the “problem is not only how to acquire new concepts and skills, but also how to unlearn things that are no longer serving the organisation well.” In my experiences, one of the biggest setbacks involves those who quickly oppose progress or innovation with a quick “we have never done it that way before.”

   It is, therefore, important for leadership to confide in employees, as it implements a new vision of the changing workplace or institution. After all, employees who are fully briefed and understand the organisational direction become its complementary public relations and marketing officers.

This is especially important to focus on because Kozlow notes that “change is unpredictable and often uncomfortable. Real and deep change in an organisation is not likely to occur unless all of its members are committed to that change. No successful change will occur if the staff does not trust the organisation’s leadership, does not share the organisation’s vision, does not buy into the reason for change, and is not included in the planning.”

   Kozlow admits some minds will remain resistant to change. “It challenges long-held assumptions and encourages non-traditional thinking. Announcing the change is not the same as implementing it.”
Today’s networked and larger-than-life clients bring more challenges for leadership that is working on change. Clothier Michael Reslan has told Leaders Magazine that “there is nothing you can tell our clients that they do not already know. You cannot tell people we are dealing with anything, because they see everything. When they shake your hand, they assess you in two seconds. They have to buy you before they buy the product.”

   Another twist comes from Robert L Johnson, who told the same magazine that “our public-school system is primarily focused on moving students towards college. It is great to have a college degree – but sometimes, that is not what the market is looking for.”

Johnson suggests “if we want to create high-paying and high-skilled jobs, why not take some of the money being spent on education and create some of the greatest technical schools (TVETs) in the world? Why not convene a meeting of all the top manufacturing companies, find out what skill sets they need, and then create these schools to match those needs?”

   Not surprisingly, Benjamin Suulola writes that “growing one’s leadership capacity demands personal effectiveness. Being effective is the ability to do the right thing at all times – no matter the cost.”


Staff Reporter
2019-11-22 08:16:49 | 7 months ago

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