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Perspectives from Turkey & Romania (part two)

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To celebrate TPCL’s 20th anniversary, we’re catching up with colleagues around the world. In this blog, the second of two parts, we hear from TPCL Turkey and Romania (First part here).

The last decade has seen enormous change for TPC Leadership. As TPCL has evolved, so too has the leadership arena in which it sits, forcing new ideas to satisfy a client base seeking innovation.

Big boss mentality 

For Christian Scholtes, managing partner in Romania, the most pronounced shift has been in the ‘big boss’ mentality. “I feel the most crucial transition in terms of leadership philosophy is that the ‘big man’, the ‘big woman’, the ‘big person’ in the leadership framework is not quite relevant anymore.” 

In its place, the idea of ‘servant leadership’ has gained popularity. In this system, Christian says, the leader doesn’t have to have all the answers, nor be the most brilliant person in the room. Instead, they lead by serving their employees’ needs.

“You succeed by creating an environment in which workers can be more creative and agile, can adapt to an ever changing environment.” It’s crucial, also, that a leader creates a feeling of psychological safety for their team, so staff can open up, develop, and be willing to learn by making mistakes. 

TPCL can facilitate this sort of approach, helping leaders adopt a strategy more fitting of the modern world. This is a very rewarding process, Christian says. “The more we teach people how to help others, the more they enjoy the experience of providing the space and the time for somebody else to come up with a brilliant idea.”

Pushback

There is, however, some pushback from leaders concerned about ceding authority. In these cases, TPCL must work doubly hard, says Turkey managing partner Özlem Rodoslu.

“Most bosses know how to do it, but they don’t want to do it. They think that it will not serve them well if they coach or if they act as a servant leader. They worry that they are going to be open to more risk, that people will ask for more of them as a leader.” 

Özlem works hard to assuage these fears and convince clients that, rather than weakening their position, adopting a new approach can embolden their leadership. This is important now more than ever, she says, as businesses battle the fallout of the pandemic. 

The COVID squeeze 

Regrettably, the financial squeeze caused by coronavirus has seen companies prioritise profits over people. This, in the long run, is a self-defeating mentality, Özlem believes. 

“Right now, bosses should be offering psychological safety and encouraging their staff to be energetic. If staff are energetic, if they love what they do, if they use their strengths, they will deliver for the company. Invest in your people and you will make more profit.”

These are universal principles, says Christian. In a typical week, he works with people from more than twenty countries — and what has he found? That the ideas, challenges and solutions he comes across when dealing with the local corporate leaders can be observed globally.   

All over the world

“I encounter the same things all over the world. Senior managers who have great vision and strategy, but these aren’t communicated down the chain of command. Or middle managers who are aware that they should be doing more coaching, but are drowning in operational details.”

These are the sort of issues he expects to come up against next week, when he starts an “agile transformation project” with one of Romania’s biggest employers. 

“It’s a really cool project which has a bit of a complex pattern between culture and structure, between leadership and agile practices.”

“I’m so very much looking forward to it, I feel that we’re going to have the lovely chance of contributing to a beautiful transformation in the spirit of our times.” 

The knowing-doing gap

Equally timely, says Özlem, is the issue of the ‘knowing-doing gap’: when a leader understands that a new approach is needed, but struggles to implement change. TPCL can help bridge this divide — something the company was doing long before it was fashionable.

“In the last 3 or 4 years, leadership development has become something of a trend. We were the ones who, twenty years ago, saw the need for this.”

Christian agrees that the knowing-doing gap is paramount in the leadership scene at present.

“The knowing is kind of, sort of, mostly there. The tricky bit is getting them to state it publicly: ‘actually, yeah, that’s the thing that needs to happen’. Then we can provide them support in crossing that bridge together.”

For a leader to succeed, crossing that bridge is crucial. Understanding the central tenets of good leadership is one thing — but if these principles can’t be utilised in practice, they’re useless. Going forward, as the workplace continues to change at breakneck speed, this will be truer than ever before. If you’d like help getting to grips with the evolving demands of leadership, TPCL is here to help

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