Inspiring Others: The Key to Leadership


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In an interview with SMT Magazine during the recent NEPCON South China trade show in Shenzhen, Jean-Marc Peallat, vice president of global sales at Vi Technology, shares his thoughts on the role of a leader and how it differs from that of a manager, how management has evolved over the past decade, and why inspiration is the key to leadership. He also discusses methods for leading the younger generation, and what the office and shop floor will look like 10–20 years from now.

Stephen Las Marias: Jean-Marc, please briefly describe your role at Vi Technology.

Jean-Marc Peallat: My role at Vi Technology, as global sales VP, is to manage the cross-cultural Sales and Applications teams across Europe, Asia and Americas. Of course, the obvious key metric on that position is to generate the revenues of the companies but the key metric is to grow company’s customer base by creating long term relationship with our customer. This is possible only if you offer solutions that match customers’ expectations, if you provide state of the art service and if you associate customers in new product development.

Las Marias: How do you know if you are an effective leader?

Peallat: It's a tough question. And it would be very pretentious to state myself as an effective leader!  But, I would say that an effective leader is able to achieve his goals while sharing his objectives and vision with his team.

Las Marias: So a leader inspires them.

Peallat: Yes. There are two ways. You can achieve your goals with a team puzzled, segregated by functions or department with no chemistry when execution of the plan is key. If you are lucky, it works! But when time gets harder, when competition gets stronger, you won’t be able to succeed as you may consume too much energy within the teams. With leadership, despite differences due to their activities, teams share the same vision and same global objectives, they understand each other and support each other. They are open to change to enable success. The leader is the one who creates this chemistry. This is key when conditions are getting tougher. At the end of year, when reaching your objectives in such conditions, you are not just achieving, you are accomplishing.

Las Marias: From your perspective, what is the difference between a leader and a manager?

Peallat: For me, the main difference is the vision and the way a leader inspires others. Management is more technical in the way that you organize and prepare the team. Management brings a degree of order and consistency. We are in the delegate-control modus operandi. A leader sets directions and develops a vision for the future, not necessary long term. He enables tools to achieve that vision. Impacts on the team are about motivation, ability to accomplish more together and development of the individuals.

Las Marias: Do you think leadership has evolved over the past decade?

Peallat: Yes, management has evolved, but leadership has evolved also. Not in the way that the leader acts, but by the way that other people see the leaders. For me, the leader is always the guy who gets the flag and moves with the flag, but the younger generations have different values in life. Twenty or 30 years ago, that generation was work centric. They put a lot of energy into work, so the leader, at the work place, was more about work. Today, the younger generations look at the leader as someone who has value in life as well. The way you act in your personal life, I think for the millennials, is important. Their leader has to also have a life that is inspiring, with value and with contribution to the community and not just work.

Las Marias: You mentioned the younger generations—the millennials. Some of the analysts are saying most businesses are wary of the millennial because they are the generation that doesn't want to be managed. From your perspective, how do you motivate the younger people who have joined the workforce?

Peallat: You're right to say that this new generation has a new approach to work. A hundred years ago, management was hierarchical: "You do what I say." After world war II, it did evolve gradualy to be more participative, more centered on people. It looks like the new generations are more in the freelance mood when they work with you, but they still need leadership. Their management has changed, but the leadership, and the person who will inspire them, is still needed. I think again even if the management changes, the way that you inspire is just a question of showing them the way to success in their life and not only at work. That doesn't change. As I just mentioned, life values, caring about the community and the planet are key. More and more, you have to show that you take care of global impact on the society. For me, that’s the way we lead, by example.

Las Marias: What is the role of a leader when it comes to training your staff or making sure that your staff are up to date when it comes to the knowledge base in what they do?

Peallat: I would say training is more of a management role because it's more about making sure that your team is operational. Even if you are not a great leader, being a great manager ensures that your team is up to speed. I think the leadership portion in that is just again showing the way and making sure that they understand the big picture. In today’s world, training and education are key along your career. World is changing so fast that you cannot rely only on your degree earned at the university. People will have to be continuously trained. The leader should explain this to encourage people, and not only the youngest, to acquire new skills.

Las Marias: Jean-Marc, what do you think the office or the shop floor will look like 10–20 years from now?

Peallat: With mobile technology, I think people are now working from almost anywhere. We already started to see that trend. With cloud technologies, the company is virtually everywhere and can be accessed as long as you have a connection. The new generation, as I mentioned earlier, are more freelancer type of worker. They want to balance life and work. I believe that the office will be a very small space where people meet and we will see less and less big buildings with a lot of cubicles. I think that will be over. When you look at the startups, you see offices with a very casual atmosphere where people work on their own and it’s very simple and informal. Even big corporations are trying to move away from this scheme, their organization is changing to introduce smaller cells with higher energy level to enhance the activity.

I think business will get away from this formal, strict environment because the younger generations expect that. Millennials want to balance their life and do not want work to be their focus. It means they want to be able to mix work sessions with personal life sessions and break the cycle of commute-work-commute-sleep. When I look at my kids today, they are working on a few projects with different companies, they are able to change quickly from one project to the other, from one company’s culture to another one. They manage their time. I think that mode doesn't fit a square cubicle. I see it being very open: no more cubicles, small spaces dedicated to meetings. People will work outside of the office, may be 10,000 kilometers away, from their home or remote places. They will come back physically or virtually to share their work, to meet teams and will go away again.

To read this entire article, which appeared in the October 2016 issue of SMT Magazine, click here.

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