Leading across boundaries

In most of the executive coaching and leadership work I have been doing over the past year, leading or influencing across boundaries has often shown up as a key competency for many organizations.

The reason for that is the fact that organizations are now growing flatter, going global and constantly looking for new markets to expand their reach and their portfolio of clients. For these organizations to be successful, they need versatile leaders who don’t only lead down anymore but lead up and across as well. So how can leaders achieve that? What does it really take to lead across boundaries?

In the past, leaders could easily work alone and delegate bits and pieces of their work to their subordinates who would typically be based with them in the same office. However, most leaders today are global leaders whose team is not necessarily based with them in the same geographical location. They also report to a director in a different country with a dotted line reporting to the country manager who often doesn’t interact with them enough to understand the nature of their work or how much they contribute to the success of the organization. The set-up of companies is becoming more and more complex and requires a new set of influencing and leadership skills.

With such vast geographical areas to cover, communication has become even more essential. The leader needs to be excellent at verbal communication, whether face to face in meetings or as a speaker in front of a large audience or even as a conversation leader on a conference call. To be good at verbal communication, a leader also needs to be a good listener who is able to listen for others’ needs and identify cues on where his influence is most required. Written communication has also gained a lot of importance being the main form of communication in leading across boundaries today.  Misunderstandings and conflicts are frequent in emails where the intended recipients could misinterpret the content or the message that is being delivered.

The leader needs to influence his team, his peers and his superiors. He has to communicate effectively and resolve conflicts as they arise especially across boundaries. Therefore, influencing and negotiation skills become essential because they determine the impact this leader will have on others in the organization not only on the ground but across continents as well. Gaining the buy-in of his subordinates and peers while maintaining a reputation built on credibility and trust can go a long way.

This is exactly why leaders nowadays need to really consider the perception that others have of them, what the image they are projecting is and what is their personal brand. Research has shown many leaders are passed for promotion because they are not marketing their own brand and selling it like they should do. Some leaders would argue that they are not good at playing the political game. However, politics are a reality especially in big and complex organizations; and personal branding is the definite way to be part of the game and ride the wave without giving up on one’s own values.

Knowing their own values and personal brand attributes, understanding how they are perceived and working towards becoming more authentic is vital for leaders today. Building their brand helps them become louder and more visible but also it helps create strong relationships within the organization and build the network required to help them maneuver in a complex environment where the support of a few is essential to move ahead.

It is a simple formula:

Authenticity builds Trust               Trust builds Credibility                   Credibility builds Relationships                  

Relationships create networks                   These Networks help Leaders move ahead                       

 Therefore they have enhanced decision making and more influence across boundaries.

In the process of building these relationships, the leaders’ influence spreads across boundaries and their decision making skills develop to include those teams they manage remotely and those who report to them indirectly. In decision making, it becomes essential for these leaders to get the buy-in of all those involved in implementation or results achievement; negotiating their way ahead with other parties and understanding where differences in culture can stand in their way and become an obstacle. Building relationships requires understanding the needs of the other person as well as the context in which they operate. For what the leader is saying to make sense to the other party, the leader must speak their language i.e. understand what motivates them and what, from a cultural perspective, could be a show stopper and how to overcome it by recalling some of their key values and motivators.

Once everyone is on board working towards achieving the same goals, the task of the leader becomes relatively easier building support and momentum as he goes. Leading the team for the success of the organization and managing change when and where required is no longer an impossible feat. When all the skills are properly used and emphasis is placed on effort in the right places; leading across boundaries becomes natural to the leader and more of an extension of his talent rather than an impediment.



About Rawan Albina

Rawan Albina is a successful self-made Executive and Leadership Coach who has coached more than 150 individuals from 60 different nationalities all over the Middle East; from middle management to chief executives. She is one of the eleven Professional Certified Coaches (PCC) in the Middle East today.

She served for 10 years as a manager and leader with multinationals Tetra Pak and Nestlé. She is passionate about personal branding as it perfectly combines her marketing background and coaching expertise.

Rawan had her career breakthrough as a coach, trainer and motivational speaker delivering diverse programs to market leaders in the MENA region in English, Arabic and French. She also mentors MBA students and is a registered mentor coach with the ICF.

Rawan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business and Economics and is a graduate of the prestigious Coaches Training Institute. She is certified in the FIRO and WPB5 assessment tools. She is a proud member of the International Coach Federation (ICF) and the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC).

Website: www.rawanalbina.com

LinkedIn Profile: http://www.linkedin.com/in/rawanalbina

Twitter: @RawanAlbina


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