“If I was in my 40s, I’d make bloody sure that in 20 years Emirates was right there and never came down a notch,” said Emirates airline President, Sir Tim Clark, in a Bloomberg interview. Pausing for emphasis, he added, “I’d keep up the pressure.”
When I read those words, I cried out, “Please do! Keep up the pressure that created the airline. Don’t let up for one split second!”
Of course, as a customer and big fan of the airline, I want him to continue leading in the same way that has put the airline where it is today — at the top. I want Emirates airline to continue to raise the bar, to set the standard for the industry, to keep being the first, and creating new products.
I want the company’s history to be its future. All of this requires the president to keep … Up … The pressure.
As a leader, you must keep up the pressure. After all, no one else is going to. It’s your responsibility to turn up the heat and apply the force. You have to set and maintain the pace.
You’re like a metronome, the device used by musicians that marks time at a selected rate with a regular tick. You are the metronome for your people, the one who keeps the tempo and beat of the business.
Are you playing music that picks up the tempo and allows your employees to play all sorts of music at once? Or, are you allowing the tempo to slow down?
While at a party, have you ever experienced everyone leaving the dance floor and heading back to their seats? That’s what happens when the DJ loses the tempo. When he lets up on the pressure, partygoers relax. You want to play music that keeps your team on their feet, that keeps them moving to the beat.
However, while it’s important to keep up the pressure, you need to recognise the point when organisational exhaustion sets in. It is a careful balancing act — if you drive your team too fast they’ll deplete their energy. But if you don’t keep up the pressure, they’ll relax and sit down.
To achieve the right balance, you need to know when to slow down or speed up, and you need to be able to evaluate your team’s condition and ability to absorb pressure. You should know exactly how hard you can push your employees without them breaking.
You must then make sure they work at their peak and apply sufficient pressure so that momentum isn’t lost.
This, of course, is easier said than done. Sadly, leaders get worn down by their people. Your employees may prefer a different tempo, one that is more relaxed and less intense. In such an environment, it’s tiring keeping the beat.
It can wear you down to the point that you end up reluctantly agreeing to decisions that you once wouldn’t.
If that sounds familiar, be careful about who’s wearing you down. Are you being worn down by the 20 per cent or the 80 per cent? Pareto’s Analysis — the 80:20 rule — states that 20 per cent produce 80 per cent of the results.
The inverse highlights why employees can drain you and slow down the business beat. The majority — the 80 per cent — are the voices that you hear most frequently and loudest. Tune out their noise so you can set the beat of your metronome at the pace of the 20 per cent, the ones who are delivering the bulk of your results.
I’m sure there are times that you and even Sir Tim feel alone with the beat of the leadership metronome. When you get tired, it’s easy to be influenced by the tempo of your employees, but that’s unacceptable.
Whatever the rhythm, the business beat is your responsibility.
You have a choice to make: set the beat or dance to theirs. Keep up the pressure.
— The writer is a CEO coach and author of “Leadership Dubai Style”. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.