Welcome back to Leader Talk! In episode 37, we spoke to Michele Lombardi, head of CNH Industrial Ventures.
Michele has over 20 years experience with the CNH Industrial family. His work has made him a valuable resource in the Technology, Automotive and Industrial Goods business sectors in North America, Europe, and Asia. His international ventures have made him a distinguished leader and a notable character in the business sector.
In this chat we spoke about the advantages of being a small to medium business and the qualities that make a great leader.
Authored by Michele Lombardi, head of CNH Industrial Ventures.
As the head of CNH Industrial Ventures, I am always learning from the wide range of businesses I work with. I believe it’s important for a leader to find inspiration in those around them to improve.
That being said, I am constantly amazed by small to medium-sized businesses and their disruptive market thinking. Their agility, adaptive thinking and innovation are a competitive edge that I admire. A study by the Centre for Creative Leadership revealed around 38% to over half of new leaders fail within their first 18 months. Adopting these values from small to medium businesses and utilising them every day in the workplace can help you beat those odds and build a formidable business.
The qualities of a great leader
I’ve been a part of the CNH Industrial family for 20 years. While the fundamental qualities, such as respect, hard work and communication have remained the same, I’ve noticed a clear shift in what makes a great leader today.
In the past, a leader was expected to have all the answers and make all the decisions, without much guidance. This has changed. The role of the leader is no longer to control every aspect of the business. Now, leaders should listen, communicate and empower their employees.
There are six main leadership styles, but regardless of which one you fit into, trusting your employees to do what you hired them to do and listening to their advice is critical to making the right decisions.
You hired your employees for their skillset – they often possess capabilities you aren’t an expert in. By recognising this and empowering your employees, you can then use it to your advantage, helping to strengthen your business practices and functionalities.
I have noticed that the qualities of a great leader don’t change country by country either. Yes, specific cultural aspects and the local legacies of a business exist and affect its practices. However, at the core of it, great leaders around the world have three things in common: accountability, communication, and consistent hard work.
Being accountable is about taking ownership over what you do. You need to understand your responsibility and work towards upholding it in every aspect of your life. This is critical to creating a successful business, no matter how big or small you are. Understanding your role and fulfilling it to the best of your abilities every day will help you build a solid foundation for success and encourage your team to replicate your actions.
The power of good communication cannot be diminished. Communicating your business’s goals, values and ventures to your team is critical to creating a motivated workforce. It bears collaboration and innovation because the only way to foster innovation is by listening to those around you. Lead through guidance and give those around you the opportunities to constantly improve.
Emails have become a great tool for leaders to delegate and communicate tasks easily, but they take more time than they often should. The same goes for hour-long meetings. At work, I actively avoid long conversations as I believe it dilutes the message you’re trying to get across. Instead, I opt to spend 15 minutes with a couple of people at a time. It’s a more effective way to communicate because it saves mine and their time, provides a place for open communication to thrive, and offers an opportunity for them to ask me any questions or raise concerns if necessary.
Hard work seems like an obvious quality in a great leader, but it goes beyond just working hard. It is about not being shy in your actions nor short on delivering high-quality results. You need to be deliberate about what you do in every area of business.
Delivering high-quality results and putting in the effort every day is also great for morale and motivation within your workplace. Leaders cannot simply tell their team to work hard, they also need to demonstrate this value themselves. This will help to inspire their team to also deliver the best they can.
Nobody is simply born with these qualities that make a great leader – but they can learn. Identify qualities in leaders and people you admire and consider how you could align your actions to reflect them. This is a humbling experience. By acknowledging that you can constantly improve the way you work, operate and live life, you can become empowered to forge a new, better leadership style.
What small to medium businesses excel in
While I work within a large, multi-national corporation, part of my role includes regularly analysing small businesses. Big businesses have a lot to learn from them. One of the key areas is agility and its fundamental role in a business’s success.
For large businesses, being agile can be difficult. Identifying opportunities and exploring them can be a long process with many individuals and sectors of the business having to agree. This is a competitive edge that small businesses have access to. So, if you are a small to medium-sized business owner, it’s critical you use your ability to be agile as a core part of your business practice. Look for opportunities and seize them when they present themselves. Take calculated risks. This will empower your business to adapt to any situation and stay ahead of the competition.
Another area large businesses fall short on, that small to medium businesses succeed in, is attracting innovative talent. The specific type of talent that is attracted to a small business compared to a large business gives these small businesses the ability to disrupt entire industries. Find this talent, listen to their ideas, and utilise their strengths to create innovative and cutting-edge products and services that meet consumers’ needs.
Identifying new opportunities
Identifying new opportunities is fundamental to any business’s success. Opportunities enable small to medium businesses to maintain competitiveness and allow them to grow. However, it’s not always easy to identify opportunities when they present themselves.
First, take a step back and consider what you are missing, rather than what you are already excelling in. Ask yourself: Where am I not strong? What is the next step in the business’s journey?
Another great way of identifying opportunities is by carving out time every day to speak to someone outside your circle, whether that be friends, investors, banks, business partners or someone else. Converse with people from all different areas of life and business. From the inexperienced to the experienced, everyone can benefit your business if you’re open to having a conversation.
Ask them questions about what is happening around you, consider their opinion and take it on as constructive feedback. Networking with others enables you to expose your bias and increase your awareness of new ideas and concepts. For me, networking is about gradually building connections. Connecting with people on a single topic you have in common can then lead to you branching out and learning from one another about a variety of new areas. People are more than willing to provide advice so ask lots of questions and learn from one another.
Anyone can become a great leader. It’s all about identifying areas in which you can improve and constantly striving to deliver excellence. By placing your business and employees before your ego, you can continue to build the qualities of a great leader and foster innovation. You can build a workplace culture where disruptive thinking can thrive.
So, ask yourself, where can you improve?