Leaders spend a lot of their time, doing and directing – often focusing on what they’ve got to deliver and how they’re going to achieve that. What we don’t do enough of – and I include myself in this – is simply stop for a moment and hit the pause button. I know the benefits are huge – I get clarity and become better at making choices and decisions. Sometimes I need to pause for longer; for example, when we review our business building plans. At those times I prefer to set aside a couple of hours to really get thinking about what works and where we need to focus our business. We call the short version putting on the ‘pause button’, and the longer version requires us to hang our ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door.
I spent a three days last week with a small group of leaders from around the UK, exploring their vision, values and authenticity and developing their coaching skills. It was refreshing and energising to have some interesting, sometimes challenging, debates. Those kinds of conversation help me look at my fundamental approach to leadership with new eyes.
So here’s my view of 21st century leadership principles:
- Leadership is self-awareness: find a meaningful reason or inspiration for what you do, including exploring & living your personal and professional values
- Leadership is influence, not control: seek to influence and work as a partner
- Leadership is relationship: connect with others in an emotionally intelligent way and deliver on the commitments you make to others
- Leadership is showing respect: acknowledge and trust the skills, talents and strengths that your colleagues bring, including the people who work in the wider team
- Leadership is presence: be fully present and focused on what you’re doing, when you’re doing it (no sitting at the computer during 1-1s etc.)
- Leadership is delivering on the Vision: see, describe and communicate your vision; be prepared for ‘course correction’ and motivate your people to get to the goal; don’t allow yourself to be side-tracked from what’s important and be ready to refocus others
Leadership Communications are different from other types of communications; leaders need to communicate through relationship – and they need to earn the right to communicate in that way. Communications activities include 1-1 and 1-many relationships, in person and through the full range of communications channels available to you
Finally, here are some leadership myths:
- Being the leader is not the same as having ‘power’, leadership is about stepping up, taking responsibility and being accountable
- We can’t ‘manage’ people in the same way we manage systems and processes – we lead them and they choose to follow – or not
- It’s not always about having to be ‘right’, nor is it about getting everyone to agree with you, or like you
- Forget the old adage that ‘communications is a 2-way activity’ – it’s a myth. Communications is a factorial (many to many) activity; once a message is out, people choose how they react to it and who they share it with – and that’s never been easier in a digital age.
Yes, it’s easy to sit here and pontificate about leadership and harder to apply our vision and values amongst the demands of the workplace – but perhaps that sums up what authentic leadership is all about: having a strong foundation that sees us through the challenges.
I wish you a good week – before you go, please take a minute to share your thoughts with this week’s leadership poll.
As leaders we need to create connections with people that go beyond the superficial: building on empathy we need to achieve trust. Trust is an indicator of prosperity and when we feel it, we are more confident that we can do business, get things done and achieve our mutual goals with others.
There’s a neuroscience to trust, that lies behind team spirit, personal and team effectiveness. Rather than write a lot this week, I’m going to invite you to spend 15 minutes watching this video from the recent TED conference in Edinburgh.