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A Different Kind of Leader?

Does Industry 4.0 need a different approach for technology vendors?

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There are innumerable ways of being a good leader, and as many different styles and techniques as there are leaders – in fact, I’d argue that a good leader is first and foremost unique. That’s because a good leader is true to themselves, it is very hard to be good if you do not believe in yourself and your approach.

A good leader then, will, either knowingly or otherwise, pull upon several different management styles, but the one that I’ve been considering closely in recent times is often referred to as Advocacy Leadership – and I’d also add a twist which focuses on agency...

I recently read a quote from a resource kit for culturally and linguistically diverse communities in Australia that gave me pause for thought:

“Advocates do not have to be leaders, but good leaders should be strong advocates.”

This clever phrase from a document about diversity resonated with me, not only as a leader of a very diverse region with many different cultures and identities, but also as a very useful observation about leadership.

To be an advocate is to promote a cause – and a good leader will always be able to motivate their team with a clear vision for what they are trying to achieve together. In our case at Rockwell Automation, we are expanding human possibility by connecting the imaginations of people with the intelligence of machines. Our teams are working hard with our customers and partners to help them achieve more productivity, reduced wastage, improved safety and stronger security. For each and every one of our customers, this means making a more intelligent Connected Enterprise, and we have a huge toolkit available to help them to identify their own vision for the future, and to help them deliver on their potential.

There’s another side to advocacy too. And that is to be someone who speaks up for or represents a group of people. On this side of the coin, a strong leader must be aware of their role in supporting their team to achieve their goals. It’s at this point that the agency twist comes into play, because once the vision is laid out and the support is made available to every member of the team, they must feel that they have the full faith of the leaders to deliver. It’s a key difference between being a manager and a leader; a leader will give agency to the team member to achieve their full potential.

With the agency approach, an able leader needs to have good personal relationships with their team. They need to understand people’s strengths and to assign roles and responsibilities accordingly. In an era of rapid change for industry, this requires a certain agility.

In advocating Rockwell Automation’s approach to market, it is important to understand that it has developed in recent years and is continuing to do so. The traditional role of the Industrial Automation and Information Technology vendor is changing very quickly. The change is being driven by industry needs and technology development in the era of digitization. The company’s new alignments and relationships with key partners such as the new joint venture with Schlumberger or the recent investment into PTC, along with longer-standing strategic alliances such as Endress+HauserCisco and Microsoft, mean that we can offer much more than ever before. They show how Rockwell Automation is keyed in to an integrated digital-physical world of connectivity that can help realise the most ambitious plans of our customers. In turn, this means we are part of a conversation with more stakeholders in our clients’ operations and must work more creatively and collaboratively than ever before.

To do so successfully requires strong advocacy leadership so that the regional Rockwell Automation team is fully enabled to help our customers define and achieve their goals. But we’re not reinventing the wheel here, our customers still want to improve productivity, reduce costs and waste, and operate in a safe and secure way. We need every bit of experience gathered at every level of our team to leverage the new opportunities and we need every member of the team to be motivated. This brings us neatly back to the empowering effect of agency leadership – given roles suited to us, and the support (advocacy) and faith from our leaders to deliver (agency), we can all achieve much more together.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on leadership in the modern industrial era (industry 4.0/ fourth industrial revolution). Do you agree with the Advocacy Leadership style? Do you see the value or have examples of how promoting agency can achieve results? Has your company identified its Connected Enterprise vision for the future and assembled the partners it needs to deliver it? Contact me to continue the conversation.


Assem Salaam
Assem Salaam
Gulf Sales Director, Rockwell Automation
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