Effective leaders take a personal interest in the long-term development of their employees, and they use tact and other social skills to encourage employees to achieve their best. It isn’t about being “nice” or “understanding”—it’s about tapping into individual motivations in the interest of furthering an organizationwide goal.https://hbr.org/2004/01/understanding-leadership
The last few years have been difficult, which is a great test for leadership development and style. As we navigate this new world of chaos and confusion after a pandemic – it seems like we are having to expect leadership from those in our work, professional network and community. I certainly didn’t consider that I had leadership skills, but when I look back retrospectively at my early life – I can see that I definitely took the initiative on many occasions of my own free will to achieve my personal goals. I also was self-motivated enough to do what needed to be done without being asked to do so.
Leadership is also instilled on us from an early age, especially if we have good leaders and role models around us. This too can manifest itself in school, playgrounds and even leisure activities. Childhood is probably the most difficult time for anyone to be leaders as growing up is difficult and challenging. It is a time when we are not fully formed adults, and have lots of new things we are learning. It takes a while for us to learn self-awareness and leadership skills – although some are natural born leaders.
I can write several points on leadership but I wanted to note some of the main skillset and mindset that I recognised recently, and therefore I am sharing them with you here.
Be Organised – There are similarities with managing yourself and others really effectively but when it comes to leadership there is a distinctive difference to making sure that other people are taken into consideration but you are leading on initiatives. There is a clear difference between micromanaging vs people using skills, tools, facility and space to manage themselves effectively. Sometimes I am so busy keeping myself busy, I have to stop to think on whether others need my support of help. Generally people will ask for help if they need it but in various situations it may also be useful to check in and provide clear avenues for support and guidance. In most situations, it is good to seek the advice of leaders who have done it before, and to offer advice to those who need it. With good organisational skills – there seems to be less chaos and more efficiencies. Therefore, try to be organised and take each step at a time.
Clear Communication – Communication is key. We have all heard this and it truly is defining feature of a great leader. Although someone may have good communication skills, being able to effectively communicate in a timely manner, and be transparent, articulative and influential are strong leadership traits. Even being in a situation where you are having to say ‘I don’t know’ is a position of strength, as you are unlikely to know everything. Building relationships and relying on networks are also great communication channels that ensures that you are able to communicate across stakeholders and with external partners. I am grateful that my first role in the corporate sector with answering queries in various format, and at various levels, gave me the confidence to speak to anyone about their information needs – this gave me a great foundation for being able to understand these barriers and how to get my message across. Communication now means a lot more to me – in terms of getting buy-in, negotiation and convincing but also speaking with conviction and advocacy in all the topics that are necessary for my various roles…but also close to my heart.
Mentoring Others – Mentoring is also a great active listening exercise and is great for sharing insights with others – recognising the value of what they are doing and encouraging them to continue to learn, develop and reflect. Leadership development is talked more about in the last decade, and it seems that it was just something that you stumbled upon in your early career. I was lucky to have good people managers and colleagues who demonstrated leadership in their roles. Team building was useful for learning from others, and for helping individuals learn from various styles and persons in a supportive environment. It is interesting that there are now more formal ways that we can offer leadership opportunities to those who are willing to help others develop. Mentoring is a great way to value experience, and learning from each other by listening and sharing. I haven’t had formal leadership training in recent years but with several voluntary roles and a full-time job – there has been several opportunities to learn from and with others, and for me to help or mentor others along the way. I would like to recognise this more in the next few years as an effective function for developing leaders and the more we do it – the better leaders there are around for the future.
Leading by Example – Leadership skills has no age limit or hierarchical structure and this is one of the most levellers for those demonstrating and acting in such a manner. In the age of political chaos and upheaval – some of our role models on mass media are not the best examples of good behaviour or admiration. I personally look for leadership examples from people around me who demonstrate good leadership skills, and who are setting the scene and tone for some of my own values. In tricky situations, someone taking the initiative to provide solutions or to alleviate a crisis wins me over all the time. It may be a person who is highly aware of themselves and surroundings, and who generally takes on the responsibility to do what is necessary and right. There are several examples we will encounter in our work and lives, but these are instances where someone has taken positive action to make sure their leadership is exemplary, and they have also led us through difficulties, challenges and even opportunities. Heroes and heroine are normally the protagonist in these roles, and there is a little bit of this in every one of us.
Risk Taking – Changes and opportunities are great ways that leadership qualities are developed. Many leaders who are willing to be flexible and agile are able to see beyond some of the risk barriers to the areas where improvements and performance can be enhanced. Do the same things will give you the same results but leaders who are able to try new things, collaborate and build deeper relationships in challenging times is likely to get the best results with sheer drive and determination. The future of work and business are always full with opportunities and you won’t be able to take advantage of opportunities without taking some risks.
Respect – Inclusive leadership is also on my mind at present. There are lots of strong characters out there but sometimes I also look to those who are quieter in their roles and who are not comfortable with speaking their minds all the time. There is also a lot of inequality in the workplace and in life, and respect and compassionate views should keep you grounded but also mindful of others. It is also normal for us to not see eye-to-eye, have different opinions, and perspectives from each other but generally we must find a way to find civil discourse and consensus on how best to deal with a situation. As with any element of conflict or disagreement – it is best to be diplomatic. There are other times when only the truth will suffice, and therefore being able to walk away with your self-respect intact – is a great position to be in!
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion – Last but not least. The world is getting better at recognising our differences and similarities, however there are so many battles to fight and so many conversations to be understood. Over the last few years, I actually feel proud of those people who have went out of their way to make others feel welcome and accepted. Good leadership is recognising that we must do more to make more equitable societies and organisations. We should also make sure that there is greater representation at all levels. Being an inclusive leader literally means taking people under your wings and helping those up the ladder. Managing biases, developing inclusive training and cultures are a great celebration of leadership that works for all.