Advert

Leading from the front

Christine Apap and Franco Azzopardi discuss the elements that make a good leader.

What are your personal traits that helped you assume management positions?

Christine Apap: I consider myself lucky enough to have had mentors at various stages of my working life. I remain grateful to these mentors because they saw potential in me and helped me develop into the person I am today.

As for personal traits, I tend to be very passionate about whatever I do. I am dependable and find it relatively easy to adapt to changing scenarios. I have also been told that I have good interpersonal skills.

Franco Azzopardi: Self-assessing myself against the Friedman theory, I seem to have a predisposition towards the type A personality: driven, competitive, a perfectionist and I get easily irritated by impediments to progress and performance.

I suppose these traits somehow contribute to me finding myself more often in the driving seat. But I also have the perhaps not-so-desirable characteristics of becoming irritated with too much detail, of following instructions, of having a phobia of never having enough time, of being too conscientious, of being disruptive in my thought processes, of perhaps putting too much energy and time in my career, of having low tolerance to incompetence, of feeling inundated with urgent to-do items.

Overall I always felt the urge and desire to be the leader rather than the follower.

What specific qualities do you need to succeed in your sector?

Christine Apap: The company I work for, FTIAS Limited, handles the processing of invoices and the generation of monthly management accounts for a number of subsidiaries forming part of one of the top tour operators in Germany, namely the FTI Group, formerly known in Malta as Frosch Touristik.

In my role as human resources and administration manager, I am not involved in the operational side. However, because I spearhead the company’s recruitment strategy, I am always on the lookout for potential candidates who have a good eye for detail, are customer-oriented and possess strong analytical skills, because these are all qualities we look for when attracting talent.

Franco Azzopardi: I would say foresight and control, much like playing chess. Logistics requires intimacy with the cost drivers, the different permutations of solutions, a high degree of collaborative aptitude, full awareness of logistic and residual risks, and the ability to play with the market forces.

Research is important to make good decisions. However, does intuition also play an important role?

Christine Apap: It definitely does play an important role. And I’m saying this not just because I once read that Steve Jobs said we should follow our heart and intuition. We are living in such a fast-paced business community that timely decisions are crucial and sometimes there simply isn’t the time to conduct research and undertake lengthy analytical processes, especially when decisions relate to the core business of the operation.

Delegating has become very easy for me, as long as I have full trust in the person- Franco Azzopardi

Although intuitive decision-making is often linked with having a hunch, my take on this is that, like other management skills, it is, and can be, learnt. To me, being intuitive stems from making decisions - which may not necessarily always be the right ones - time and time again. The more you make decisions, the more you learn to think intuitively.

Franco Azzopardi: Intuition is a function of mastery. It is something tacit and cannot be taught. You either have it or you don’t. Most will gain it from experience through being in the right ambience with the right exposure. A place with a strong corporate culture, where big data, data mining, manipulation and meaningful interpretation are an obsession, will probably be the breeding ground and forge for good experience and capacity building towards intuitive skills. Such an ambience makes intuition a natural reaction with a certain degree of accurate shots.

Intuition is also dependent on the degree of intimacy with risk exposure and the skill to work within the defined risk appetite of the organisation towards customer centricity and providing sustainable and profitable solutions.

Do you involve other members of staff in decision-making?

Christine Apap: Involving staff members in decision-making processes, wherever possible, is one of the main tenets at FTIAS and does not just happen in the section I am responsible for.

Acknowledging and respecting different perspectives, first and foremost, enriches the decision-making process- Christine Apap

In human resources, we come together informally very regularly as a team, and invariably animated discussions, where team members voice their opinions, are the order of the day. But I really wouldn’t have it any other way because, for me, acknowledging and respecting different perspectives, first and foremost, enriches the decision-making process and is also my way of showing my team how much I value them. Moreover, this contributes towards building mutual respect within the section.

Franco Azzopardi: Absolutely. My style is to first carefully study people in the immediate circles of the organisation and then place full trust in those people who impress me with their will and skill to take loads of responsibly and boomerang back to me refined solutions. I strongly believe in the theory of mind.

No man is an island and the fantastic quality in humans is the way we normally spiral upwards in conversation and collaboration. My role is drawing the line and deciding on action. Unrestrained conversation and discussion can end up in unnecessary complexity. There is no perfect timing. Collaborative efforts should be like a pointed and sharp blade. Actioning postulations is of essence.

Do you find it difficult to delegate?

Christine Apap: The short and honest answer is yes, it’s not always easy to delegate. When I reflect on why it feels that way, I would say that ironically it’s because I feel that I haven’t got enough time to explain to a colleague what needs to be done.

As part of my training responsibilities at FTIAS, last year I delivered a training programme to staff members who were either undergoing their supervisory traineeship or who had recently assumed a managerial role and one of the aspects that I harped upon was that delegation was not dumping – they may both start with the letter D but that’s where the similarity ends.

Franco Azzopardi: Since the first time I admitted to myself many years ago that my employees could do things even better than me, even if in a different way, delegating has become very easy for me, as long as I have full trust in the person.

How do you empower other members of staff?

Christine Apap: Primarily, by sharing knowledge and providing the necessary context for team members, and then by trusting them and showing them that I trust them by stepping back and giving them the freedom to act.

I make sure that I watch out for occasions when they do well. However, when and if something does goes wrong, it is important to create an environment where it is safe to fail. I am not in favour of a management style where team members are thrown off at the deep end to see if they will sink or swim. Rather, I see empowerment as one of the most effective management tools to develop team members and to increase overall accountability.

Franco Azzopardi: I normally engage trustworthy staff by unleashing them completely. I do set standards and clear objectives because many times, from experience, projects become clouded. My motto is to cut through the fog - always stay focused on what matters. The rest is a nice-to-have but unnecessary. I have learnt this from my decades in the Japanese martial arts and studying the Japanese culture.

Does good leadership have a trickle-down effect on all other members of staff?

Christine Apap: Yes, I firmly believe this. I exude a lot of energy and I think that I manage to transmit this to everyone I work with. I encourage constant communication and try to make work fun. I constantly try to be not just a team leader but also a teammate and, for me, that is fundamental. I am determined to succeed in the goals that are set for me, and, because I am not easily deterred, this sense of commitment really does inspire my team to do their best!

Only the other day, I sent a message to one of my colleagues to say thank you for seeing a challenging task through and the reply was, “How can I not be committed when I see you lead by example.” That was a beautiful compliment.

Franco Azzopardi: My role is to inspire and motivate others towards perceived excellence. I hope I do leave a positive effect on my people. I owe this to them. The people around me are mostly the ones who make me effective.

• Christine Apap is human resources and administration manager at FTIAS Limited. She delivers training on behalf of MISCO Consulting and is a member of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, the Foundation for Human Resources Development and an affiliate member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

• Franco Azzopardi is chairman and CEO of Express Trailers.

Advert
Comments not loading? We recommend using Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox with javascript turned on.
Comments powered by Disqus  
Advert
Advert