Leadership is something that many organisations lack. In many larger organisations there will be pockets of leadership, but often it is inconsistent. For small companies, particularly those run by owner managers, leadership often requires a degree of bravery. You see, you can’t lead people if you don’t trust them to follow. So many smaller business owners forgo leadership for control. The most successful small business owners have faith in their leadership abilities and trust the people they hire
A bold move
One large bank has recognised the lack of consistent leadership across the organisation and has done something about it. From the top down, everyone in a management role is going on leadership training. They will end up with a toolbox of leadership techniques to help them in their day to day role as leaders. The bank has recognised that management alone is not enough to be really successful. It’s a bold move but can only have a positive effect. Not everyone will ‘get it’. Some will go back to the workplace and follow the same old routines, not embracing the new ideas. But if enough do ‘get it’ then the swell will carry along the doubters and something special could happen.
Bring me solutions not problems
Your organisation may not be as bold as the bank I talked about, but there are plenty of things you can do yourself to create your own pocket of leadership. In my newsletter I spoke about an early boss who said “Bring me solutions not problems”. He was “managing” . In fact, he was hoping I’d self-manage. He wasn’t interested in leading or even helping, he just wanted the problem to go away – so I did. I resigned and chalked it down to experience. Now he could have taken a different approach, one that I adopted myself a few years later.
I was on a day’s leave when my deputy gave me a call. He’d had a meeting with some of the other team leaders and they had a problem and wanted to know what to do. I could have said “I’m on holiday so bring me solutions not problems”, but I didn’t. Nor did I give him the solution. What I did was talk to him about the problem, asking him questions about it and his views at each stage. After a few minutes he came up with the solution and said “so I didn’t need to have called you after all”. I said that he just hadn’t realised that before and that he would realise it the next time. He felt better because he had come up with the solution. He also felt empowered to come up with the solution and take decisions the next time. He had grown and developed in the space of a short phone call. Very well worth a few minutes out of my day off.
Managing is about organising and getting things done. Leadership is about inspiring others to get things done better, faster, with more pride. Like in the example, it doesn’t have to be grand things. It doesn’t have to be a company wide initiative. Very often it is the little things that make the difference. Taking the trouble to go out of your way to say thanks for the extra effort, or a job well done.
I believe there are little leadership things we can do everyday that collectively make a huge difference. I worked in a team where the boss asked everyone of his senior team to mentor one of the more junior staff. Leadership point 1 – he was actively developing his people. Leadership point 2 – it was a mix of contract and permanent staff, but everyone got treated the same. The most telling thing for me though was when one of the junior members of the team came up to me and expressed disappointment that I wasn’t going to be his mentor. He said everyone wanted me as their mentor because they saw all the little things I do to help develop others in the team. I reassured him that would continue, but my official mentee would feel obliged to buy me coffee!
The best way to develop your own leadership skills is to look at the people that have inspired you over the years. What was it about them that inspired you? What can you learn from them. Don’t try and mimic them because leadership has to be authentic, be part of you. But learn and think about what they did and the impact it had. The real key to good leadership is to learn good communication skills. And the most important aspect of that is learning to listen. Listen and understand, so that when you lead, you address people’s fears, concerns and hopes.
Good luck on your leadership journey – let me know how you get on.