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In rapidly changing times business leaders need a diverse range of skills in order to be able to ride the choppy waters of change sweeping through the sector. Leaders in today’s climate are having to navigate complex and uncertain environments and new strategic opportunities unforeseen by their executive teams. When unexpected market changes impact your organisation, sometimes you don’t have the internal knowledge to right your course. This is the time to seek expert advice.

With regulatory challenges to adjust to, environmental obstacles to overcome and geopolitical complexities to manage, it’s no wonder that multinationals can struggle to find effective leaders. The leaders who do effectively lead, direct and chart viable strategic courses, as well as motivate and inspire the employees in the organisations they helm.

In this article we’ll outline the most important attributes needed by leaders to hurdle challenges and battle through crises to turnaround their organisations, using real life case studies to paint the picture.

Effective leadership in a changing sector

A leader can help transform the strategic direction of a company, helping it to move with the times, whether they are responding to the threat of an internal or external challenge, or they consulting their internal compass to look forward to the future, to enable the company to remain competitive in a changing landscape.

Total, the French oil major, as an organisation, has shown strong leadership to overcome some difficult challenges, including their commitment to climate change reduction practices and the company’s transition to clean energy production.

They have ensured the following:
1. Explorative steps
In 2006, Total took the lead on climate change, being one of the first fossil fuel majors to publicly acknowledge the global risk of climate change. The company’s first step to reducing their impact on the environment was to implement cost effective methods to reduce flaring gas emissions.

2. Target setting
Two years’ later, Total was leading the way in the industry, dragging along other major oil companies in their wake. Following Total’s lead, oil companies began systematic reporting of greenhouse gases and other climate change reduction metrics. Total also set a target of reducing gas flaring by 50 per cent by 2012.

3. Transforming core revenue-making activities
In 2009, Total focused further on low carbon products, launching EcoSolutions as its low-carbon products and services portfolio. With this move and investments into a number of energy companies including SunPower, a solar energy company, Saft, a battery producer, Stem, who focus in energy optimisation and BHC – operational energy efficiency, Total made the long term commitment to move its revenue base to renewable energy.

4. Differentiation
In 2014, Total further moved to differentiate itself from other major oil companies. Their approach to build for the future was built on a reduction of the carbon focus in its product mix, investing in carbon capture, expanding its renewables base and concentrating on production and storage.
 

Patrick Pouyanné inspirational leader
In 2014, Patrick Pouyannné assumed leadership at Total, which he still occupies to this day. Since taking the mantle of leadership at Total, he has put in place a balanced strategy of looking towards the future by slowly moving the company’s core revenue generating activities to renewable energies, without ignoring oil, the source of their success.

Common attributes of inspirational leaders

We have identified five of the most crucial skills that managers in the energy sector need to have.

1. Are your leaders resourceful?

Resourcefulness means the ability for leaders to plan strategically while retaining the skill to think on their feet and adapt to challenges and changes in conditions as they arise. Leaders should be able to both map out a long term strategy and make the right calls under pressure as circumstances change. Being able to implement multi-faceted systems of work across an organisation, and utilising a flexible approach to problems or change makes a leader able to chart the course for the future and correct the course when things start to go off track.

Effective leaders are unfazed by change

Life's too short to hang out with people who aren't resourceful.”
Jeff Bezos, Founder & CEO of Amazon

 

When driving change securing frontline buy in is essential
The Harvard Business Review points to a major American energy producer having difficulties implementing a productivity improvement programme. After pushback from middle managers, the executive team won over objectors by demonstrating the quick wins of the programme – showing their resourceful leadership and ability to remain unfazed in the face of internal friction.

 

2. Do your leaders effectively lead employees?

Can your leaders delegate responsibility and set employee workloads with ease? This is one element of effective leadership. Motivating employees so that they work towards a shared company goal is another exemplar of how to lead well, and if your leaders can help employees grow and develop within your organisation, you’ll have a motivated and dynamic workforce.

Leaders need to develop a flexible growth mindset in their staff which embraces change, to ensure they can navigate the company through shifting market conditions.

Effective leaders motivate and inspire employees

Yes, renewables are an indispensable part of the future energy mix. But provoking a sudden death of fossil fuels isn’t a plausible plan. The world’s energy needs will underpin the use of fossil fuels for decades to come. So, rather than ruling them out, the focus should remain on lowering their carbon emissions.”
Royal Dutch Shell CEO Ben Van Beurden

 

3. Are your leaders effective change managers?

Large organisations can be resistant and slow to change, like a giant cog slowly grinding into gear, change can take time. An effective leader will be able to implement organisational change initiatives smoothly, winning support from key employees and divisions while overcoming any resistance to change from complacent employees.

Effective leaders overcome resistance and normalise new cultural directions

Don’t forget that driving change affects individuals
Vagit Alekperov, the President of Lukoil has been at the helm of the Russian oil giant since its inception. But, in the 2010s he had to initiate change to modernise the company and keep them competitive in the current landscape.

So, in 2016 he decided to restructure Lukoil by cutting ties with service companies which were historically connected to Lukoil. The restructuring impacted 70,000 people. These employees left Lukoil to join private companies formed from the organisation’s subsidiaries.

The end result? Alekperov’s effective change management led to in his words: “a competitive environment for our services” and the ability “to focus on our core strategic areas of business.”

 

4. Do your leaders build relationships?

A leader that builds relationships creates goodwill and trust with employees and external parties, including strategic partners and customers. The best relationship builders understand and emphasise with others’ positions and views and win cooperation through persuasion not authority.

In a comprehensive research study conducuted by the Centre for Creative Leadership (CCL), two thirds of respondents, from a total of over 438,000 respondents, said that "building and maintaining relationships is a critical competency." In another CCL study, nearly every one of 250 executives surveyed said that "collaboration is critical to success."

Effective leaders are persuasive and empathetic

Giles, hbr.org 2016

5. Do your leaders have a growth mindset?

Having a growth mindset, is to constantly test yourself and resolve to improve your skill set in underdeveloped areas. Leaders can apply this both internally and externally, whether it’s understanding the technical details of how their newest product or service works, or keeping an eye open for emerging markets. By constantly looking for new opportunities, an organisation may be able to gain first mover advantage.

Effective leaders constantly boost their competencies

The Centre for Creative Leadership (CCL), wanted to understand the key competencies needed by energy companies today, to do so they surveyed the people in the sector with the most insight. By surveying thousands of mid and senior level managers who take part in CCL’s leadership development programmes, they were able to generate a huge database of the competencies necessary for effective leadership across all managerial levels.

Named Benchmarks, the CCL created a survey with 155 managerial behavioural descriptors, in 21 different scales. Sixteen of these scales relate to leadership skills and perspectives and five pertain to derailment factors.

 

Safety in numbers – spread responsibility throughout your organisation

Crane safety has recently entered the public consciousness after the crane accident in Bow, East London July 2020 which killed one and injured others. Nowhere is crane safety more important than in the drilling industry.

Canrig Drilling Technology Ltd, understands the importance of safety in their industry and the value that frontline staff can have in preventing crane accidents, which are prevalent in the drilling sector. In February 2020, a North Sea drilling rig’s crane collapsed; luckily no one was injured, but this is an exception which proves the rule in crane accidents.

Canrig showed leadership by giving their employees the power to take responsibility for the safety of projects. Any employee has the power, without fear of reprisal, to stop work to check the safety of a crane before another load is lifted.

The company encourages employees to speak out by assuring them that even if a project could have continued safely and they stopped it, they will face no disciplinary action, and their proactive approach to safety reporting will be positively affirmed

Did you know many business leaders are introverts?

Not all effective leaders are well known. The more you think about this, the more it makes sense. The best leaders are quietly effective, their greatest skills are listening and consensus building, and rather than taking credit for their organisation’s success they share the credit around equally.

Up to 40 per cent of business leaders describe themselves as introverts, including some of the most successful and inspirational leaders of our times including Fortune 500 leaders.

Fortune 500 introvert leaders
• Tim Cook, Apple
• Bill Gates, Microsoft
• Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway

 

What are the personality traits that they share with other introverts that gives them the ability to lead so effectively?

They voice their opinions only after considered thought
Often in business those who shout the loudest are heard first, however an introverted leader is only willing to voice an opinion they have thoroughly thought through and unequivocally believe in. This fosters a culture of analysis and evidence based actions, rather than gut feelings and sudden strategic about turns.

They are unfazed in times of turmoil and crisis
Introverts have the ability to remain calm, measured and quietly confident at all times. Rather than getting stirred up by the heats of passion as extroverts might, they prepare well and respond to crises with a steady appraisal of the facts and a considered use of the resources at their disposal.

They value time for solitude and reflection
The key difference between introverts and extroverts is that extroverts are energised by spending time with other people, whereas introverts feel exhaustion after a lot of time spent interacting with other people. The time introverts spend on their own gives them time to recharge their batteries, reassess their points of view and engage their creative problem solving capabilities.

Leadership insights

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Are you investigating new expansion and growth opportunities or considering a strategy shift?
- Mike Callis, Director

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