It is my belief that leaders from history provide us with invaluable leadership strategy lessons, such as, how to be decisive, courageous, inspiring and be prepared to take action, that are still relevant today. I wanted to share a great article, written by William Cohen, explaining how Peter Drucker, often regarded as “the Father of Modern Management” was far more inspired by lessons from historical leaders than by modern management. I have précised the key points below but click on the link should you want to read the complete article from Human Resources iQ
Peter Drucker’s favourite book was ‘Kyropaidaia of Xenophon’, believing that it offered a wealth of relevant, sound advice to the modern business leader. An incredible fact considering that Xenophon was a fourth century B.C Greek soldier!
Who was Xenophon, how is his leadership inspiring?
Xenophon was not originally a general or even a senior officer. He stepped forward to take charge when no one else did to lead 10,000 soldiers, outwitted by their enemy, stranded and leaderless. Realizing the imminent need for action, Xenophon convinced his fellow Greeks not to trust the enemy negotiators and through his decisive actions he became the elected commander.
Xenophon’s extraordinary leadership and five-month march to victory became one of the most famous in ancient history. It is a story of courageous action, improvisation and discipline, self-sacrifice and above all, inspiring leadership.
How we can learn from Xenophon’s courageous, inspiring leadership today?
The first lesson is that some action is better than no action, we should take action no matter how difficult the circumstances.
Set the example. If you are downhearted, your people will become despondent. If you are prepared to face the challenges ahead, demanding the same of those you lead, they will follow your example.
Demonstrate your own courage, showing personal effort and work hard.
Be in control and exercise discipline, without which nothing useful gets achieved.
Get those you lead thinking about the positive action they should take to improve their situation and be successful so they don’t dwell on "what is going to happen to me?" - When a soldier complained that he had to walk and carry a shield while Xenophon was mounted, Xenophon dismounted, took the man's shield and pushed him out of the ranks. Xenophon led the pace and encouraged others. When the going was light, he led on horseback, when difficult on foot.
When some were disheartened because their numbers were less than their enemies Xenophon reminded them of something that centuries later General George S. Patton told his army. "Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by people." The same can be said of any human endeavor - it is people that win battles and marketing campaigns. Resources remain important but they are not the deciding factor - people are. So if your employees are despondent, or overly concerned about the situation they face, remember Xenophon, get your employees thinking about the positive action they should take. Ensure each and every individual feels important and valued. Remember Patton – people are the deciding factor, you can be successful with reduced resources, but not without committed people.
Xenophon, thousands of years ago was an advocate of servant leadership. He realized the extreme value of looking after his subordinates, taking better care of them than they might take of themselves, putting their interests even before his own.
What do you think?
Do you think that if employees are treated like this that they will more readily support their leaders and the organization’s interests? Do you share Drucker’s view that although Xenophon practiced leadership in a different time and place and faced different leadership challenges, his leadership principles of decisive courageous and inspiring action are still relevant today?
The importance of building trust
In all customer facing roles, building customer trust is essential, it should be a maxim for all interactions with others, not just in business. It is key for a consultative sales person. Trust and respect are won by the way we treat people; being empathetic, showing interest and listening, thinking about the customers’ needs not our own. In a consultative sales situation this is critical; if the customer trusts you they are more likely to work with you, perceiving you as someone who can provide solutions to their needs.
Building trust to create customer loyalty
We have all experienced poor customer service and we know how it feels when we are not being treated well; in restaurants, in shops, or over the phone when we have a customer service issue etc. Ironically we are told to call the ‘Customer Service Department’ but so often there is no customer service. It is frustrating and annoying and does nothing to induce us to want to stay loyal to that service provider. In today’s competitive market place customer loyalty is critical for all businesses, B2C and B2B.
Effective customer service builds trust and loyalty
I was reminded of the value of being treated properly through good customer service recently when collecting a repair at a jewelry store. Like most people, I was in a hurry. I arrived to a shop full of people with only two assistants working. I was immediately, maybe unjustly, irritated, realizing that this would not be as quick as I had hoped. I was acknowledged with a warm smile, the assistant apologized that there was a wait and assured me that I would be helped as soon as possible. I waited, not so patiently, for about 10 minutes but despite this, when I left the store I was a satisfied customer already making a mental note to return should I have another ‘jewelry need’ on a future occasion.
Why? Well despite the initial inconvenience, I had received excellent customer service. They had done a good job, my jewelry had even been polished but what made the difference was the way I was treated. They were apologetic about the wait even though they could not really be held accountable for the fact that when I arrived they were busy assisting other customers. They established my needs. Understanding this, once they saw their existing customers were deliberating over their choices, they asked their permission to help me. They did this efficiently. As they handed back my credit card, I was treated to the same friendly smile, a further apology for the wait and was invited to call back when I was next in the area for a free cleaning of my rings. It made me feel good, that I would return, that I would recommend their store to others. I am sure the other people in the shop noticed their interaction with me for the friendly and sincere customer service it was.
Good customer service costs little but pays dividends
How much effort did this take? Very little and what was the result - a delighted customer. I had only spent twenty dollars but because of the way I had been treated, the good customer service, when I next need to buy a jewelry gift maybe I will be spending considerably more money in their shop.
Business is about people
We all respond better when we are treated well, good customer service pays and is important in all realms of business for it is about the way we treat others. Whether we are in sales or not ‘business is about people and 'people do business with people'.