Becoming a leader of others is a privilege, not a right and holding onto that knowledge at all times is a strong foundation for increasing our impact.
Because when we think about the gift of being able to guide and support others and the responsibility that brings (while we are also being targeted to achieve results) then we can remain continually aware of the energy required to stay in the best place possible to achieve that balance, having a positive influence on the people we lead; inspiring people to follow us and influencing through action.
I remember early in my career being given my first leadership responsibility. I thought (in my rather inelegant, naïve and unformed way) I deserved this and that others would just fall in behind. It was a frustration to me that I wasn’t immediately followed, I didn’t get it and thought it was the shortcomings of my team that caused this. Over time I realised of course it was all up to me and how I engaged with others, how I earned their trust … although I still didn’t necessarily have the tools to be able to be a good leader.
Time, and lots of effort on my part has thankfully supported my ability to be better and to appreciate that becoming a decent leader is a life-times work.
So, what are some of the things – skills and attributes – that are useful to know?
Being able and willing to adapt our style of communication and interaction to suit the people in our team is a good start. This takes first being aware of how we actually operate and our own preferences. So keen self-awareness is a critical first step in order that we can then flex our approach.
Be consistent, honest, reliable, hard-working and confident – which means talking openly about our fears as well as our positivity. As we live in a time of economic and political uncertainty, we cannot afford to shrink from challenges or shy away from change. Embrace the uncertainty as an opportunity for continuous improvement throughout the wider organisation; learning to be comfortable with ambiguity is key.
Establish a shared vision for our teams, a sense of a common purpose. They will gain a clear understanding of what they are working towards, and what effect their actions will have on this. In essence, our impact is increased by making our team more productive; we show them why our leadership is necessary, by improving how they work together and increasing their output under our lead.
Remain relatable and human. People respond better to leadership when it comes from a place of sincerity, so always endeavour to be authentic when interacting with team members. No one wants to work for a self-important leader, so rather than relying on the short-term benefits of ‘power’ over our staff, we gain much more by investing time and energy in building trust and influence (as I learned through bitter experience!).
Invest in continuous learning and personal development. Personally, I opted to train as a coach to become a better leader, and then to practice coaching regularly (this was before setting up my coaching business). Since then I have engaged in personal development programmes every year to keep myself self aware and aware of how to lead others. That’s over 15 years of regular CPD (why should leadership be any different to staying relevant than in other fields where CPD hours are mandated?). Whether you choose to accomplish that through formal education, or experience coaching and mentoring you will find that if you invest the time, and create this focus on self-development, you can more easily instil a culture of learning and growth in your team.
Be kind. This doesn’t mean we can’t give difficult feedback. Feedback, delivered with good intent and kindness is heard more keenly than a clumsy conversation (or worse no conversation at all!) – ask how folk wish to work around development, agree how to give and receive feedback. This openness is so important for truly positive leadership impact.
If you’d like to know more please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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