Post No.: 0262
Leaders take the ultimate responsibility – they do take the plaudits and they do take the blames (well few people care about or know who literally presses the buttons or pulls the levers to drop the bombs but we care about who gives the orders). Despite this, good leaders create more leaders, not followers – they empower, provide the context, resources and support to their people, and then let them get on with it to make their own mark on the organisation. Good leadership is inspirational – you are the visionary and motivator. You can be loud or quiet to inspire but you must lead by example – example is the carrier of inspiration.
It’s not ‘leaders’ and then ‘workers’ – it’s leaders and workers together. There must be a shared vision and journey binding everyone together. Good leaders have confidence in their teams and there is respect all-round from top-to-bottom, bottom-to-top and side-to-side, and towards any customers/clients too.
It’s not only about your own personal career but also about developing each of those who are under your leadership, and fostering their potential for individual greatness. You must create more leaders, take much of the control (but not accountability) out of your own hands and disperse it; and encourage any sub-leaders to do so too. So focus on others, not just on yourself. Good leadership is not ego-driven but is generosity-driven – it’s about the greater good of the team. Employees want to be in control of their own lives so don’t ‘tell’ them to do things as much as ‘inspire’ them to do things. Showing them how to do things then giving them control when they’re ready is to instil responsibility and care for their work. Encourage them to constantly come up with better ways to do things rather than wait to be instructed on what to do. Create possibilities for others, and inspire people to be aware of their own ability to fulfil those possibilities. This also gets them to approach their work in a more mentally engaged rather than mindless ‘go through the motions’ way.
We can also learn a lot from others, no matter what status you think they have (e.g. younger generations might be more technologically savvy than older generations), so there’s value in lots of asking and listening too.
Some say that we ‘manage things’ and ‘lead people’. Managers promote stability in doing things that have already been done before, and leaders promote change to innovate and do things no one else has ever done before. This post is more about leadership but we need both modes. When not leading we’re managing, and vice-versa. We lead to help the team get things done in often unknown or new situations, and we manage to get things done that are predictable or have been done before. We lead to help our team drive change or ride it when it comes.
Whatever the case, leaders are visionaries – they deal with the bigger picture, yet can also do detail and get their paws dirty too. And it’s not just about guidance – it’s about delivering the results too. It’s a mixture of ‘command and control’ and ‘empowerment and liberation’, so develop independence rather than a dependence on you. This doesn’t mean lazily pushing people out on their own and hoping they’ll do fine – it means actively training and supporting their development towards independence.
Good leaders allow everyone to use their initiative, especially because these people are likely to be actually on the field, in front of the customers or otherwise closer to the action to spot opportunities or problems. Good leaders therefore do not create ‘jobsworths’ (people who follow their job description in a deliberately inflexible and uncooperative way).
The less you are needed in a ‘micromanagement’ sense the better i.e. because you’ve created more leaders who aren’t afraid to fail and will try their best without fear. Failure is part of the process of innovation and taking chances so accept that failures will happen now and again. The key is to learn from them rather than be afraid of them. (The fool isn’t the person who fails – it’s the person who never even tries or learns.) Give them lots of control – don’t be threatened by their greater independence or power. Hire based on who’s trustworthy and create a culture of trustworthiness. Be enthusiastic about appointing people who are better than you too! If your shared vision is strong enough then their gains are your and the group’s mutual gains.
Develop these leaders to take charge of the various aspects of the organisation (not ‘mini me’ clones but individual leaders of their own). A group of leaders makes change easier to mobilise too so that your organisation is less of an oil tanker when it needs to change direction and adapt. Developing leaders in others takes time though so put in that time and reward those who spread it in your organisation too.
Some organisations might not be able to emulate this exactly, but a group of leaders is like a Special Forces team, where the members may take turns to lead on specific tasks due to their specialties, even if one member may hold seniority in the group. It’s certainly not about egos. If any member needs to ‘beat their chest’ to gain respect from the others then they don’t have respect from the others. You may aggressively coerce others into a kind of ‘respect’ – but if so and when the time comes, they won’t put their life on the line for you. (They might even want to stab you in the back at the next opportunity(!)) So between love and fear – as a leader you want to foster love far more than fear. Meow.
Believe and keep the belief in your team. Ask yourself ‘if I get into trouble, will my people rally for me?’ Employees want trust, some responsibilities, reward, to learn, and to have fun (where possible), while they work. Pay is only one part of job satisfaction – respect, recognition, stimulation, challenge, a clear understanding of the link between one’s personal efforts and the organisation’s outcomes, some autonomy, personal development and other emotional needs are directly crucial too for motivation, satisfaction and productivity.
Inspirational leaders have a strong strategic focus, which means ensuring that your organisation only does those things where it has the resources to do a good job and where it can add real value. It’s about playing to your team’s strengths. (As a note, a ‘strategy’ is about the overall plan, whereas a ‘tactic’ is about the more practical-level method to achieve an objective.) They employ lateral thinking, which means being adept at drawing on experiences from outside your own sectors and taking a much broader view than the norm. Look at things laterally and encourage others to do so too. They have vision and good communication, which means having a strong customer-focused vision of where the business should be going. Communicate your vision so that everyone in the team feels that they own it too and know where they fit into this vision. Great communicators prefer plain speaking to jargon where possible. And they have strong principles, which means being deeply committed, courageous, demanding of oneself and of others, and being confident but never cocky. Strong values are built upon honesty, openness and a genuine respect for your people.
They’re also able to reflect, which means having genuine humility and not being afraid to show vulnerability on occasions, which comes from an insatiable thirst for learning i.e. they don’t think they already know it all because no one does. Good leaders never stop wanting to learn, even from less senior people. They’re able to take risks but calculated risks rather than gambles, hence any failure will be limited and manageable. They also tolerate this behaviour in others, recognising that a bit of flexibility is essential to adapt to circumstances and make real strides forward. They’re accessible people, which means making time to get out to speak to people informally and personally, which is a very powerful motivator. Think about those individuals in your organisation you haven’t spoken to one-to-one for a while. Equally, if people want to come to you then don’t hide behind a wall of personal assistants. Create a positive atmosphere so people are comfortable in approaching you. And they value attitude above all, which means valuing skills and training very highly but also focusing heavily on attitudes. Without the right attitude and internal drive, nothing can be achieved.
Employees, meanwhile, want to feel respected, which comes from you asking for and respecting what others tell you about how to do things better, and then providing the means to implement these ideas or solutions. Respecting others and what they think creates trust. It’s not ‘the customer is always right’ – it’s every stakeholder with equal importance as everyone’s interests are in common. And your people are like your family so they should be defended rather than assuming anyone else is automatically right over them. They want to feel involved so involve them in changes. You must give them the freedom yet support to get on with the job too. They want to feel like they’re having fun – people can work hard and intrinsically enjoy themselves in the process. Leadership must be fun too! Fluffy fun can lead to innovation. They want to feel trusted, which is about your openness, honesty and respect towards people, which fosters commitment from them and responsibility in their work. They want to feel appreciated so recognise their good work, even with a simple, “Thank you.” Value them and their input, whether formally or informally. Celebrate their successes, and credit them, never yourself. And they want to feel valued and feel value in each other so promote a culture where each and everyone values themselves, each other, the organisation and its customers/clients.
Allow them to understand how their work makes a difference, as this builds a commitment to higher standards. Connect your organisation together as one communicating whole. Induct every new member – whatever their role – by letting them get close to the production and end products of the company, rather than disconnect them from what may have attracted them to the organisation in the first place. This also connects everybody in the company and acts as an opportunity for networking within your organisation. It also breaks departmental barriers down, makes people in separate departments seem more human to each other and makes everybody feel like a vital part of the bigger picture!
To allow everyone in your organisation to get to know each other better – apart from day-to-day working together – organise informal social activities together, which can range from going to the bar after work to a sports club or days out. It’s important to find ways to build stronger relationships with your people, and all your people with each other. If these are after work though, think about those with parenting responsibilities – it’s probably best to therefore simply ask for people’s suggestions rather than force upon an activity that they won’t enjoy or can’t partake in.
Share, and stand by, the philosophy of your organisation with everyone in it. The customer must also be at the heart of all you do too of course. Listen to everyone, encourage everyone to speak and share their ideas and views on working practices, and reward and implement the good ideas. Let them share their ideas and knowledge sideways around the organisation too, to inspire better practices with other members of the entire team and to again help connect everyone together. Quality standards, ethics, creativity, teamwork and endorsing the best ideas, whoever comes up with them, must be core attributes of your team.
So support everyone’s personal growth (even ‘manual workers’ need to be ‘knowledge workers’ too nowadays) and seek, as well as give, feedback on all matters. Good leaders create a leader in everyone!