The topic of leadership is vast. It is relevant to each and every one of us. Every time you make a decision or take an action which impacts others, you’re leading.
Here, Jasper, SEVEN’s Executive Coach and leadership expert is beginning with his first article in a series on the 7 aspects of leadership over the coming months. So keep tuned.
Leadership is a journey, not a destination.
Consider a leader in your own professional career who you felt was truly effective. Or a great public leader, maybe from history or sport as well as business. There’s much to be heralded in observational learning. What is critical to your own leadership success however, is that you use this learning to increase your levels of self-awareness and not as a rulebook on how to behave yourself. This series explores how the bring the best of you to the table, thereby giving you the intrinsic motivation to achieve greater success as you define it, within the realms of what is expected of you in your role.
Leadership is a journey, not a destination. That journey may be well underway, or starting right here. The more self-aware you become and the more effectively you learn to manage yourself and your emotions, coupled with the manner in which you apply those learnings to your given circumstances (emotional intelligence or EQ), the greater a leader you will be. IQ may have opened a door at the start of your career, but to grow as a leader throughout your career, it is you EQ which you need to develop.
If you aspire to be a leader, or if you currently are in that role and you want to be more effective, then this point is the most critical of all. Be yourself. Don’t settle for the current version of you, of course you should strive to improve in any way possible. But remain true to, and understand, yourself – your core values, your unique strengths, your natural leadership style and your learned skills which are relevant to your leadership position. If you try to emulate another leader, and it conflicts with who you are, you will come across as weak and insincere. Think of an example from your career of when someone fell into this trap.
No one leadership technique or style can transcend all leaders. Certain concepts ring true for many leaders, but each leader must put them into practice in their own unique way. For example, it would be commonly accepted that most leaders would like to be viewed as inspirational, but the methods employed to inspire will vary greatly. Consider how Steve Jobs inspired Apple employees compared to how Richard Branson inspires Virgin staff. Both brands are motivated by consumer experience, both leaders are inspirational, but one’s style was autocratic and the others is collaborative. One’s skills lies in the detail, the other lies in persuasion. What are the core competencies you feel are required for your leadership role?
Great leaders are made, not born. Every great leader makes lots of mistakes. Quite simply, it is their ability to learn from those mistakes and apply that learning in future situations that differentiates them from the rest. As the saying goes, there is no such thing as failure, only feedback. If great leaders were afraid of making mistakes, they would be paralysed by fear, inactive and indecisive. No one wants to mess up, but great leaders will forgive themselves and move on the wiser for it.
Transitioning into a leadership position (from a position of leadership or not) represents the most powerful development opportunity for you. This is a time when a formulaic approach can greatly assist you and it is one of the areas in which I specialise. The skills that got you this far are not going to be enough to succeed in your new role. You need to prepare mentally for the transition, use a framework to accelerate your learning (before, during and after transition), understand who the key stakeholders are (internal and external), match your approach to the circumstances, secure some early wins and learn how to manage expectations and negotiate your success.
How you communicate effectively as a leader is critical to your success. It may be the most important skill to learn. It begins with communicating your vision as a leader. This comes from your core. If you have clarity around your own values and purpose, you will be better able to communicate what is important. Every organisation has objectives and targets. Giving them a purpose and meaning so that your team and staff are empowered and motivated to achieve them takes effective communication and leadership skills.
If you want to progress to the next level, you need a succession plan. And if there is no one strong enough in the business to fill your shoes, you need to ask yourself why you have not developed some options in your time as leader. It’s never too late. A critical part of your role is developing others, for selfish and selfless reasons. Find your own motivation and pay it the attention it deserves.
Stay tuned for more detail on each area over the coming weeks.
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