How to be a strong leader

Isabelle Marquis | Journalist

Strong leaders are essential to business success, because they help their teams win. Simple as that.

Mobilizing teams, communicating clear objectives and winning are fundamental aspects of business. As Guy Barthell and Dominic Deneault write in their book Le Québec sur le podium, “Leaders are powerful: they motivate and encourage others to forge their own path.”

Even the greatest leaders take inspiration from leaders before them. In this same book, we learn that Jacques Landreville, former CEO of Uni-Select, was inspired by Quebecor’s Pierre Péladeau, while Garda’s Stéphan Crétier had a lot of admiration for Couche-Tard’s Alain Bouchard.

Leaders must understand the critical role they play in the business. According to Rémi Tremblay, leaders must be aware of the effect they have on others, of the task at hand and of the complexity of the world around them.

6 leadership archetypes

In 160 hours of interviews Guy Barthell and Dominic Deneault had with great Quebec leaders, they identified 6 leadership archetypes:

1. Catalyst and unifier:

Catalysts know how to mobilize the troupes; they contribute to their development and help them succeed. Unifiers bring people together to work towards a common goal.

2. Architect and analyst:

Architects are focused on human nature, meaning and significance, whereas analysts are logical, rational and rigorous. This dual role is well illustrated in the book using the example of Cirque du Soleil: Guy Laliberté represents the architect (right-brained, creative), whereas Daniel Lamarre is an analyst (left-branded, manager).

3. Mediator and negotiator:

Mediators help people resolve conflicts or manage differences of opinion, whereas negotiators are focused on reaching an agreement (to close a business deal or sign a contract).

Business leaders are only human, and they can’t possibly be all these things. If they want to succeed, they must be able to recognize their weaknesses and surround themselves with others who complement them.

If your team stops listening, adapt!

Rémi Tremblay started managing teams at 22. He says if your team isn’t listening or following your lead anymore, then it’s time go back to the drawing board and start asking questions.

“The best way is to know yourself. You need to understand how you lost your way before you can adapt. You have to listen to others, because sometimes answers come from the people around us, our coworkers and employees.”

Guy Barthell says it’s important to know why your team isn’t behind you anymore. There might be several reasons, so it’s important to ask questions. “Have you been playing favourites? Is your vision understood and accepted by everyone? Are there black sheep? If yes, why? You can’t forget to recognize and thank people who perform. Recognition can have a positive influence within the group.”

Leaders and generation Y

Young people are commonly thought to be less loyal than their parents were, and less willing to work the same long hours they did, etc. Rémi Tremblay sees the cohort’s recent entry into the job market differently. “Young people aren’t ready to make all the same sacrifices my generation was to get a promotion or a raise. And that’s good. It forces us—company leaders—to provide more fulfilling and stimulating work environments.”

Always be aware of changes happening in the workplace, adds Guy Barthell. You have to adapt your leadership to the changes happening around you. He uses recognition as an example. “It basically didn’t exist 50 years ago, but now it’s important to employees. People want to grow and be recognized. Leaders need to keep that in mind.”

A (wise) final word

During a trip to Burkina Faso, Rémi Tremblay met the King of the Mossis and asked him for three things he’d tell someone who wants to be a great leader. “Listen, listen, listen,” replied the man.

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