Appearing in In The Black magazine, November 2020
Cracking the Leadership Code: Three Secrets to Building Strong Leaders
By Alain Hunkins
Wiley, $30 (e-book), 274 pages
Hunkins has been a leadership coach for many years, and in this book he distils his observations into practical advice. He believes that the best leaders are more concerned with objectives than processes, while operating within a framework of connection, communication and collaboration. He unpacks each of these pieces of the code, mixing research with anecdotes and emphasising the need to build trust and credibility. Once upon a time, leadership might have been about exerting control, but now it is about guiding strategy and influencing the context for action. Share the vision, ask open-ended questions, pay attention to the voices of experience.
True leadership is not easy, says Hunkins. It takes practice and self-awareness. Most leaders have made mistakes; the key is to reflect on them and take away the right lessons. He also warns about the danger of getting bogged down in complexity and detail. Get out of the corner office to engage with people down the line, he advises.
Hunkins explains his points with admirable clarity, and adds flashes of humour. He mainly has C-level executives in mind but most of the book would be useful for leaders at any level, including small firms, business units and teams.
FinTech Future: the Digital DNA of Finance
By Sanjay Phadke
Sage, $25 (e-book), 232 pages
Around the world the old financial order is under challenge, with technology-driven disintermediation threatening the longstanding dominance of the banks. Phadke provides a timely overview of fintech, looking at how tech companies pushed their way into the financial services field. Fintech DNA, he says, is about mobility, rapid change, scale or fail fast, crowd-sourced innovation, and continuous product development.
Something fundamental happened when new players leveraged technology to bypass institutional structures. The current issues are the integration of artificial intelligence, big data, blockchain, Cloud tech, and cryptocurrencies into finance. The next wave, already building, will be the effective takeover of finance by fintech. Maybe the banks can survive if they adopt fintech ideas as central to their operations. Maybe not.
Phadke has a great deal of experience in this field and he is not blind to the obstacles and dangers, although he believes that fintech has attained critical mass. Many of the large tech companies now have the financial reserves to step around capital requirements and regulations, and are more trusted than banks by younger consumers. The book also includes a section on how India, where Phadke is based, is seeking to leapfrog its competitors with a fulsome embrace of fintech. Fascinating stuff.
Smarter Business, Stronger Cash Flow
By Paul Roach
Woodslane, $30, 136 pages
Cashflow problems are the single largest killer of small businesses, and sometimes large businesses as well. Roach, a CPA, has worked as a management accountant and consultant for a wide range of firms, and in this useful book he provides a wealth of advice on how to improve the cash bottom line. Many people in business, he says, are not very aware of the cost of goods sold, the contribution of company assets, even their actual cashflow position. Roach walks through each of these problems, explaining the importance of regular reviews, solid analysis of income and outgoings, reliable cash forecasts, and the accrual of reserves. Along the way, he has suggestions on management tools to get the best from employees and on effective inventory control, and also (for very small businesses) on separating personal funds from company resources.
Much of what Roach has to say will not be news to trained CPAs but he is able to explain tricky concepts in simple terms, which would be useful to accountants with SME clients. There are exercises that can be worked through with clients and summaries of each section. The website that accompanies the book is also helpful, with diagnostic tools and checklists.
Accounting and professional services giant EY has named Dr Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, head of biotech firm Biocon, as its World Entrepreneur of 2020. From just US$500 in 1978, Biocon has grown into a leading firm in India’s technology sector, evolving from manufacturing pharmaceuticals to developing affordable drugs to treat diseases such as diabetes.
Dr Mazumdar-Shaw originally graduated from brewing school in Australia. When she returned to India she discovered that no-one would hire a woman. Undeterred, she decided to create the business that would become Biocon.
“At its core, entrepreneurship is about solving problems,” she says. “The greatest opportunities often arise at the toughest times.”
Read her story at:
Lessons for rebound
In an interesting discussion, two senior executives of global consulting firm Mercer, Renee McGowan, CEO Mercer Asia, and Georgina Lee, Growth and Experience Leader, Career, Mercer Australia, shared observations about Asia as it moves out of the COVID-19 crisis period. Their analysis included lessons for Australian leaders on how to promote and strengthen the rebound.
They examine the split-team concept, where people are rotated between working in the office and working from home, which has proved successful in several countries. They also emphasise the need for leaders to continue to plan for new problems, and to constantly communicate with employees and other stakeholders.
PwC’s Global Economic Crime and Fraud Survey 2020 shows that Australian businesses are lagging behind global averages in combating fraud and corruption. According to the report Fighting Fraud: A Familiar Foe in Unfamiliar Times, 35 per cent of Australian respondents experienced a fraud in the past 24 months, with 40 per cent reporting a loss of $1.4 million and 22 per cent losing more than $7 million. However, only 38 per cent of companies conducted a post-fraud investigation, compared to 56 per cent globally. Australian firms have also been slow to adopt advanced technologies to detect and prevent fraud, even though tools are available.
For a summary of the survey, and a link to the full report, go to:
John Maxwell is a thought leader in leadership and management, having written a series of well-regarded books such as Leadershift and The Power of Your Potential. The articles, podcasts and videos on this site are designed for leaders at every level. Maxwell has a wide range of research to draw upon, and his strength is turning data and expert opinions into practical advice. He has a particular interest in collaboration and mentoring, and several recent pieces deal with co-operative strategies in response to crises. Other posts that are well worth a look are ‘Build Your Team’s Scoreboard’ and ‘Three Ways to Defeat Distraction’.
People born between 1996 and 2012 will constitute a quarter of the Asia-Pacific population by 2025. A major McKinsey survey of 16,000 Gen Zers in Australia, China, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, and Thailand revealed several broad conclusions despite the differences among the countries. They rely on social media but are thoughtful about how they engage with it; they look for quality and ‘deals’; video content greatly influences their brand selection; and they want to be seen as concerned for the environment but are often reluctant to pay for it. While reaching Gen Zers represents significant challenges their growing affluence makes the effort worthwhile.