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How to prevent a leadership car crash

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For years, companies have struggled to create a positive image that can help them win business and talent.

Reputational capital can also serve in times of adversity, but also when the choice of a potential client is not just the cheapest offer but an offer that can bring value if it comes from a responsible organisation that is serving society and the environment cares about those in need.

It also matters when such a good company makes an innocent mistake and needs leniency from regulators or justice.

They can get a more favourable ruling.

Caring about people and the environment and acting professionally are values of an organisation where leadership is talented and strong.

The management of such an organisation sees profit in doing good.

Thus, it encourages and promotes a culture of social responsibility emphasising the values that distinguish it from its competitors.

Banks in Cyprus and abroad have been fined by regulators for money laundering, abusing client trust and market manipulation.

These banks occasionally appear to do good by supporting health institutions or environmental causes.

Although such actions are most welcome, in reality, they are wasting their money because people know all too well that these banks are too corrupt to do any business with them, no matter how good they appear.

Many studies have found that acting professionally by offering higher-quality products or services helps win business, hearts and minds.

Sometimes, however, even small things can play a major role in making or breaking a good image.

Last week, I was cycling on my way to the beach when a truck passed me too close for comfort at high speed.

A couple of hundred meters later, it stopped at the traffic lights, and I noticed the driver talking on his mobile phone. He kept talking as he drove off.

I wondered whether the company logo printed on the truck was an invitation to do business or to avoid it. Probably the latter.

Reckless driving by a staff member demonstrates the level of professionalism or, rather, lack of it in the organisation.

It shows that leadership leaves much to be desired and lacks effective management and controls.

But can one person with poor driving skills create such a bad picture for an entire organisation? Absolutely yes.

A responsible company that cares about people and the environment would have trained its drivers not to be aggressive on the road because accelerating and stopping burns more fuel and wears the engine faster.

Speeding faster than the zone limit creates risks of accidents which may cause injuries or even fatalities. The consequences in those cases will be enormous, both for the company’s reputation and the driver involved.

Training drivers to drive prudently pays off economically by saving on fuel and maintenance while demonstrating to the public that it cares about the safety of cyclists and pedestrians.

But it takes leadership to develop the right corporate policies and enforcement procedures to ensure that responsible driving is not an option for company drivers but rather a professional requirement.

It further demonstrates that management has a vision of being professionals and acting on long-held social values.

Understanding that drivers need training not just on how to handle the wheel of a big truck but how to behave on the road is a sign of commitment to those values.

On the contrary, a lack of such understanding indicates poor management and leadership.

As John Maxwell put it  in his famous book on the Laws of Leadership, “personal and organisational effectiveness is proportionate to the strength of leadership.”

Michael Olympios is Editorial Consultant for the Financial Mirror