Posted: Mon 22nd Apr 2019
Leadership, "pah!" I hear you say. "It's just another fad", "it's something for large companies", or probably the most popular one, "I don't have time for learning something new". Well I'm sure you'd be surprised to learn that knowingly or not. you're already doing it.
The dictionary defines leadership as "the action of leading a group of people or an organisation". However, it's not that clean cut. Whilst it is about leading people in the direction you need them to go, it requires a number of other skills and traits to achieve the overall goal.
To me, leadership is about helping others to fulfil their potential in the pursuit of a pre-determined goal. This should be instilled inside your business through structured personal development plans, coaching and creating a freedom to challenge the norm and take risks.
It's a skill that can be applied at all levels of management, across all areas of business, both in industry and government.
If we're agreed that the purpose of leadership is: "helping others to fulfil their potential in the pursuit of a pre-determined goal", how does this align to business operations, business transactions and government policy?
All of these aforementioned activities happen because there is a mutual goal and you have to collaborate to achieve it. There is no longer patience for business deals that heavily benefit one party over the other, there must be fairness and balanced reward for both.
If we're both looking to achieve a pre-determined goal then there is a requirement to lead across business to achieve it. Typically, the main reason you're collaborating is because you have a skillset or resource your client doesn't have. You can use leadership skills to inspire confidence and to influence and build a lasting sustainable relationship. You do this through:
Listening: Being sure to understand what they need to achieve.
Sharing: Either industry information or some expertise.
Caring: Genuinely looking at the best option for your client.
Through these simple actions you start to earn respect and with respect comes the opportunity to lead.
To deliver leadership in your business you need to inspire those whom you wish to follow you, influence them, coach them, listen to them, challenge them, give them meaning and empower them. Leadership should be driven with integrity, fairness and by setting the example you expect them to follow.
To correctly execute the right leadership, it's imperative you have the right culture in the organisation. Employees must be engaged at all levels and feel a sense of belonging. Belonging is closely linked to purpose, therefore it's extremely important that everyone buys into the company's vision and the role they play to realise it.
My advice is always to adopt an arm around the shoulder rather than a dictatorship approach. I want everyone, no matter their position, to feel that I'm an approachable and rational leader, as hierarchical freedom is important. I've found that balancing approachability with being the face that's not afraid to make difficult decisions has helped me to install the trust and respect of my peers.
For many, this is a very challenging predicament; how do you one minute encourage people and have an arm around their shoulder, then nex make and deliver those difficult decisions? Whilst there is no easy answer, it gets better with practice.
In harmony with the key leadership qualities take time to explain how you've come to that conclusion and what the impact is. Don't be afraid to re-consider your decision, based on feedback from your colleagues. Don't be stubborn for the sake of it. It's OK to change your mind (just not too often. If it is happening a lot look at the process you're using to make the decision, it could be broken)
Ultimately, for me, leadership isn't solely the job of senior management, it's a role for everyone. As holding integrity, demanding the highest standards of ourselves and others will deliver the change we aspire to achieve. It should be deeply rooted in the fibre of the company and driven from the leadership and board.
I once read a great quote and it said "a rising tide lifts all boats". There's a lesson there for us all.