Guest Blog: Rick Ferguson, NashTech Country Manager Australia/New Zealand - The quest for leadership
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I enrolled into a 9-month ‘management’ program at a graduate business school. On day four of the program, our madly eccentric adjunct professor set us an individual assignment to articulate the difference(s) between management and leadership. It’s not a simple argument, so as part of my research, I reviewed my own behavioral traits, and received a very rude awakening! To this day, the observation and practice of effective leadership in all walks of life continues to taunt me. Leadership is a journey shaped by a myriad of influences, it’s subjective, intangible, and is definitely not confined to the workplace. I don’t recall how well I fared in the assignment, but I do know that I concluded my presentation with this statement - ‘A manager does things right, a leader does the right things’ (attributed to Warren Bennis)
Last week, I had the pleasure of attending several internal meetings at a NashSquared offsite that was hosted outside of London. The meetings gave me the opportunity to meet with more than seventy Nash Squared employees from multiple business units located around the globe. While the camaraderie and collaboration was amazing, I was particularly impressed by the dynamic and innate leadership traits on display at a 20 person workshop that I attended. Having been tasked with a business challenge, it was inspiring to observe new employees fearlessly voicing their perspectives despite the attendance of long-term business leaders at the same workshop. On a sombre note and most poignantly, we were given time to reflect on the recent passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and it was during this moment, I recalled how one of my previous colleagues had defined leadership as follows: “People will continue to follow and pursue my principles after I have gone”. Time will tell, but I do envisage that over time, Her Majesty will be regarded as one of the finest leaders of our generation. I was born in London, and will miss her greatly.
Leadership is demonstrated in many forms, and while some believe that sport and politics do not mix, in 1995, I experienced an exception to this assertion. South Africa, playing at home and captained by Francois Pienaar, had beaten New Zealand to win the Rugby World Cup. When Nelson Mandela (Madiba) walked onto Ellis Park to present Pienaar with the winner’s trophy, he did so wearing a green and gold South African rugby jersey embroidered with Pienaar’s number six on the back. Madiba had only recently become president of South Africa, after a 27-year term imposed by the very government he had succeeded. Despite the legacy of apartheid still an open wound, Madiba, choose to show the world that he was intent on uniting a divided nation. I was in the stadium that night, and I knew then - I was in the presence of a visionary leader.
A couple of thoughts about leadership in client relationships. Firstly, how much do we really know about our customers business objectives? If we develop a genuine understanding as to the outcomes our clients are seeking, we are better positioned to offer thought leadership, innovative solutions, and to build deeper and more enduring relationships. Secondly, an internal culture of empowerment balanced with appropriate coaching will facilitate an embryonic leadership culture to the benefit of both our clients and Nash Squared.
Living in Australia has its challenges as time zones can play havoc with the scheduling of business meetings with my international colleagues, so this last week has been very rewarding. As I strive to recover from my jet lag, I would like to wish everybody a wonderful weekend, and to leave you with this thought…Are you doing the right things?
NashTech Country Manager Australia/New Zealand