I’m passionate about encouraging leadership in the individuals I work with. Organisations need more leadership, (or genuine engagement, if you prefer it), at all levels. I think that it is brilliant that in the last twenty years or so, so much has been researched and written on various aspects of leadership. Despite all the research, I find it disappointing that many people revert to what is often called the Great Man Theory, with an expectation that the leader should be larger than life, leading through strength of personality alone.
I’ve lost count of the number of managers and MBA students that I’ve coached both formally and informally who disqualify themselves from leadership because perhaps unconsciously, they don’t feel they are able to fulfil the superhero role that seems to be expected by leaders and followers alike. In my case, as with others, messages from childhood that “I wasn’t good enough” held me back, but when I realised that I didn’t have to compete by copying others, I was able to move forward.
A number of leadership quotes essentially say, “leadership is who you are, not what you are”. I particularly like this quote from Warren Bennis:
“No leader sets out to be a leader. People set out to live their lives, expressing themselves fully. When that expression is of value, they become leaders. So the point is not to become a leader. The point is to become yourself, to use yourself completely – all your skills, gifts and energies – in order to make your vision manifest. You must withhold nothing. You must, in sum, become the person you started out to be, and to enjoy the process of becoming.”
I’d like to suggest three 'amplifiers' that build our leadership effectiveness.
The first of these is Courage. Leadership is required when something different must be implemented. Not knowing what the response will be requires courage to step in and/or speak up. It’s no coincidence that courage is based on the French word “Coeur”, or heart. Brené Brown’s book 'Dare to Lead' provides valuable insights. Leadership is about inspiring and motivating but also dealing with the fact that not everyone will agree with what is proposed.
Research about change leadership emphasises that people do not want 'happy talk'. I have experienced the drop in morale when a senior manager, through lack of courage, gives the message that 'everything will be fine', when everyone knows that this just is not true.
The second amplifier is Connection. It’s perhaps obvious to say that leadership is about connecting with people, not simply following processes. But this isn’t simply about getting to know more about the people who work with you and for you. Knowing which football club they support is only a start. Being able to empathise with others is so important, again recognising that this doesn’t mean agreeing, but at the very least being able to adjust the message. The Trust Equation developed by David Maister and others suggests the need for Intimacy. The implication for leaders is that people need to know the authentic you so that they can assess more accurately your words and actions.
When I was the MBA Director at Cranfield School of Management, I used to challenge each new cohort, saying that I wouldn’t judge them on their academic results but rather on the evidence that they were there and, more importantly, that they were curious. Being curious about what needs to change, how to motivate key individuals, what’s happening 'beneath the surface' are just the start. Leadership is also about being curious about what tomorrow might look like. I love Albert Einstein’s quote, "I have no special talents, I’m just passionately curious”.
To sum up, build your courage, connect with others and enable them to connect with you, and be curious as to how you can develop your leadership.
Graham is one of our expert Masterclass speakers on our programme, LEAD™, talking about gaining competitive advantage through operations. As a guest writer for our blog, here he offers these thoughts on leadership following the release of his latest book, available now on Kindle and out in print next month.
'More Than Good Enough: Insights into Leadership' lays wide Graham’s passion in encouraging leadership in those who may not believe that they can make a difference in the world.
We are honoured to be mentioned in the book in the section about authentic leadership, with Stewart's leadership mantra making it into print, "Say what you do and do what you say!"
Graham's view that 'no leader is credible without inspiring his followers' chimes true with our QuoLux™ Purpose of Inspire Belief - how effective leadership is about increasing your self-belief and your confidence, inspiring belief in your team and providing a sense of purpose amongst your people.
For more information on how we can support you to develop your leadership skills to be the best leader you can be, please get in touch here and we can arrange a Zoom video call.