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More to leadership than watching the bottom line

IMAGINE a workplace where employees have no desks or computers, where the employees elect a board of directors from their peers, where there are no managers and no reception desk.

To leaders of traditional organisations it may sound ludicrous and not like a workplace at all. But it exists.

St Luke’s Communications is a UK advertising agency that has won several accolades and major accounts since its inception in 1996.

Co-founder Andy Law has since published a book, Open Minds, about some of the lessons learned through the St Luke’s experience.

The company was one example used by AIM-UWA Senior Management Centre managing director Professor Ron Cacioppe at a recent talk about contemporary leadership.

Professor Cacioppe said being a creative leader had become more important in the contemporary business world.

He said effective leaders were able to understand their employees and have an open communicative style not dissimilar to what can be found at St Luke’s.

“Leaders and managers need to be more emotionally wise. We’re dealing with a more intelligent group of employees,” Professor Cacioppe said.

“Leaders need to be much more responsive. We have fewer people working for us and they will have plenty of other job opportunities. We have to find ways to motivate and inspire and become much more strategic.

“A good leader will be able to keep an eye on what is happening in the world and at the same time hear what the employees need, and can give them, or attempt to give them, that with the businesses goals in mind.”

Professor Cacioppe said companies were moving into an era of sustainability and, in order to recruit and retain intelligent and skilled people, leaders would have to become more socially and spiritually responsible.

“If corporate leaders don’t realise that uni students are studying what major companies are doing in the world then they will suffer down the track,” he said.

“We don’t share the outcomes of the company enough. We are not creative enough with our rewards.

“We need to be creative with them and look at what rewards make a difference.

“If someone is on a high salary, money may not be as important.”

Professor Cacioppe said results rated money as number 22 on a list of priorities that make a company a great place to work. Issues such as communication and interpersonal relationships featured among the top 12 (see graphic).

A flexible approach to work and creative environment has paid dividends for Perth company Shearmans, owned and operated by Carla Shearman.

Ms Shearman said the success of her business lay in the hearts of her employees.

She said her company had grown in its eight years of business because of creative management strategies.

Four members of her staff work from home and the eight full-time employees working at the Perth office can choose their hours of work.

“It’s a family-friendly place and adds more flexibility. For our clients it gives them a broader range of coverage because someone is at the office at 7.30am and someone is here at 6pm,” Ms Shearman said.

She said involving her staff in business decisions, from purchasing to staffing, helped create the family culture.

Another useful strategy being employed by modern organisations is employee ownership combined with employee input or decision-making, which Professor Cacioppe said statistically created more effective companies.

Plunkett Homes managing director Tony Prichett said part of his company’s philosophy involved a profit share arrangement with employees.

“The profit share is a percentage of net profit that’s split evenly amongst the employees, which makes it a staff contribution rather than an individual one, and they can see the results of having a very good year,” he said.

Mr Pritchett said that his company communicated with all of its 70 employees, whether it was asking for feedback and criticism of its new homes, or the type of training sought.

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