Archive for the ‘ self leadership ’ Category
A few months back, I asked a group of leaders for a show of hands on who had experienced either oversupervision or undersupervision. Almost every hand went up. But then I asked how many had themselves oversupervised or undersupervised their direct reports. Only one or two hands shyly peeked out from the crowd.
So what’s going on? Well, leaders can sometimes be unaware of what they should and should not be doing. And this lack of awareness separates good leaders from great leaders. Great leaders know that leading is a never-ending journey that can be filled with treacherous obstacles.
So what do you need to know to become a great leader?
I don’t have regrets and I know what my mum would say if I comment on how lucky I have been at work. The line ‘you create your own luck’ normally rears its head. I won’t tell her, but she’s right! I do wish at times I had more confidence in my ability though and wasn’t so hard on myself.
I have pondered over the last week what I would tell my younger self if I had the chance, but also what I would tell other young or aspiring leaders.
You can influence others without authority
You may not be a manager or have direct responsibility for making a decision, but you can contribute and you should. You thoughts, ideas and input are valuable and may have a huge impact on an individual, department, business unit or even a whole company.
You will have a job as a Project Assistant for a local authority in your Summer holidays whilst studying at university. You will be brought in to do the project team’s filing, but you need to show interest in the ‘bigger picture’, learn the team’s objectives and how you can help them. A number of small projects later and you will find yourself on an away-day working on a transformation strategy with the heads of service. Imagine that! Never think you can’t influence others.
You will get knocked down, but you will get up again
It was Winston Churchill who said ‘Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm’.
Your career won’t all be plain sailing, there will be set backs and challenges. Just remember that everyone needs these challenges and to make small mistakes in order to learn.
You wouldn’t have the length and breadth of knowledge years down the line without a period of learning and we all gain that from ‘doing’ and making errors. It’s a hard fact of life, but don’t beat yourself up over it. You’ll be a stronger person as a result.
I was talking to my team this week on the topic of ‘thinking like a child’ and I wanted to tell my younger self to always ask questions. You are a sponge when you are younger and have a creative, out –of-the box thinking that often gets lost as we get older. We have more responsibilities and the stresses and strains of life take over.
So, my advice is to be inquisitive, ask questions and soak up as much information as you can. You have a great opportunity to learn from everyone around you, the good bosses and the bad. Treat it as a gift.
Take all opportunities available to you
When we progress in our careers there’s the tendency to take on too much and to have to learn the art of delegation and sometimes just saying ‘no’.
My advice to the younger me is to take every opportunity that comes your way. Everything is an experience, a learning curve and some will be a marvellous adventure. People will admire your enthusiasm and are more likely to offer you other opportunities in the future.
There’s a lovely quote from Mario Testino, he said ‘my favourite words are possibilities, opportunities and curiosity. I think if you are curious, you create opportunities, and then if you open the doors, you create possibilities’.
The challenge of youth; earn the respect of others and be positive
It’s going to be a bitter pill to swallow; but the reality is that when you are young people will judge and question your ability. The best thing you will ever do it to remain positive and plough your energy into proving your worth and earning the respect of others.
This is not a bad hand you have been dealt, it’s an opportunity to prove your worth and to shine. Every manager you will have will admire your determination and perseverance; it’s up to you to gain their respect.
Be confident about your value
This last piece of advice is not about strolling into your bosses’ office and asking for a pay rise, but it is about giving yourself a pep-talk when things aren’t going so well.
Always be confident in your ability and know your worth. We are all different and that means we are have unique strengths that add value to a workplace – know what your value is and bring it to the table.
Lastly, keep a phrase, quote or mantra in your pocket for the tough times. I will give you a start with the latin phrase ‘Carpe Diem’!
I recently went out for some drinks with friends of mine who both work in the medical profession. Each of us being in leadership roles of some form, the discussion turned to styles of leadership. They both agreed that, in their line of work, you couldn’t work with junior team members – new doctors, and nurses; and tomorrow’s leaders of the health system – simply by telling them what to do. You had to be there to show your team how things should be done, and then let them take the reins whilst you step back.
This reminded me of a speech I’d heard about four years ago. I don’t remember all of the details, but I remember the key opening line. In life, you’ll come across two types of leaders. There are “Come On” leaders – leading from the front, setting the example, and pioneering the way for their teams; and there are “Go On” leaders – who take a back seat and keep a bigger picture overview, encouraging their teams and individual team members to be pushing their projects forward and taking the lead.
“Come On” Leaders:
“Go On” Leaders:
An employee is likely to follow the directions of a “Go On” leader for how to perform a job because they have to – they lead others by virtue of their position, and people will follow because of his or her job description and title. However, an employee will follow the directions of a “Come On” leader because they believe in who they are as a person, what they stand for and for the manner in which they are inspired by their leader.
“Go On” leaders will have subordinates, but “Come On” leaders will have followers – and perhaps this highlights a key point, that – to be a “Come On” leader, a person doesn’t necessarily need to be in a leadership position. Think about someone on your team who is always coming up with the new ideas, and continually raising the standards.
“Go On” leaders have an ability to get their team as prepared as possible; making sure they are clear on the objectives, and then ‘get out of the way’. They don’t go away completely, but they allow the people they are leading to take responsibility – a leadership style which can give others on a team the opportunity to step into a leadership role.
The key skills of “Come On” leaders include:
Skills which might suggest being a successful “Go On” leader include:
Paul Morin writes on Company Founder of the benefits of ‘leading from behind’, as a “Go On” leader might do – and gives some specific examples of how it might work to take a step back; and even Nelson Mandela demonstrated a love for being a “Go On” leader with his quote: “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”
Yet, Fred Hassan speaks in the Harvard Business Review about the importance of having “Come On” leaders on the front line.
No single type of leader is better than the other – both “Come On” leaders and “Go On” leaders have their individual merits; and very often, they work hand in hand.
“Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
Courage is a well-admired human trait; but when asked what courage is, what do you think of?
Is it a soldier, fighting a battle far from home against a fierce, unknown enemy?
What about a fire-fighting hero running in to save someone from a burning building?
Perhaps your imagination stretches to a fictional hero, rushing in to save the day?
All of these are an example of physical courage – someone’s life is in imminent danger, and our courageous hero puts everything right again.
But forget about your cape-wearing, pants-on the-outside, lycra-clad hero. What about normal, average people? The British have a wonderful phrase for this: “The man on the Clapham Omnibus” – people going about their everyday business.
This could encompass individuals who blow the whistle on corporate corruption, at risk of losing their job; or – an example from one of my favourite books (Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird”); a Lawyer, who stands up to defend someone who is innocent, even though society condemns them for doing so. Could these people be described as ‘courageous’?
In a word: yes!
The courage demonstrated by holding on to one’s own values – regardless of whether this is on the battlefield, or in the boardroom – is Moral Courage.
Lisa Dungate defines Moral Courage perfectly in her blog on Lions Whiskers, where she explains that: “Moral courage means doing the right thing, even at the risk of inconvenience, ridicule, punishment, loss of job or security or social status”.
Novelist, J.K. Rowling’s Harvard Commencement Speech for the Class of 2008 provides some moving examples. The video of her speech, from TED.com, is 21 minutes long; but at 12 minutes she gives an emotional recollection of her time working at Amnesty International, with people who risked their own lives to speak out about the persecution, abuse, and torture taking place in their home lands.
Everyday moral courage often isn’t this extreme, but that does not mean that it is any easier to practice: moral courage might mean being different or disagreeing publicly.
As difficult as it is – displaying moral courage can earn respect, trust, and admiralty; and by practicing moral courage very day it gradually will become easier.
Let’s take moral courage away from the corporate setting, for a moment; and consider practicing in every day situations:
You don’t need to be being rude; or enforcing your own opinions on others, to demonstrate moral courage.
But, as professionals, how can we use these skills to make values-driven decisions consistently?
The Ivey Business Journal gives examples of moral courage in leadership: In August 2008, when Michael McCain, CEO of Maple Leaf Foods, stood in front of the press to accept responsibility for the contaminated meat scandal that resulted in numerous deaths, he undoubtedly needed courage. Southwest Airlines CEO, James Parker, would have needed courage when he went against the industry job-slashing trend following 9/11 when he courageously announced that he would keep all employees
Why is moral courage important in leadership?
Moral courage is crucial in developing authenticity – it empowers individuals to discover and demonstrate what they stand for – even if this is at the disapproval of others. By developing self leadership through action in moral dilemmas, professionals and leaders can ensure both integrity and impact.
Actions speak louder than words. Leaders at all levels need to act out their expectations, behave honestly and openly, and demonstrate loyalty. They need to establish and maintain open communications, so that those working with them know that their suggestions will be listened to – that they have a voice. People need to know that their leader isn’t going to act on a whim, just because it’s the majority decision. All of these qualities are facilitated by a leader who has courage.
Leaders with moral courage can be trusted by colleagues to do the right thing. It takes courage to tell the boss something that they do not necessarily want to hear; or to redirect an employee; or to make unpopular decisions.
An awareness of the importance of doing the right thing – which is not necessarily the popular thing – can help leaders demonstrate moral courage when they face ethical challenges in the workplace, and uphold ethical working environments and business standards.