My 7 Big Leadership Learnings
‘Leadership’ is a tricky concept and one that can be hard to wrap your head around when you first step into your first (or second!) leadership role. Surely you need to put on a mask, know all of the answers and kick lots of butt to be a successful Leader..? Well through here are my key learnings (from my many mistakes!) from over twenty years of leading teams…
What’s it all about?
Thankfully, those preconceptions that a lot of people have are wrong! Great leadership is all about doing your best to help your people bring their best to the table, every single day. It’s about inspiring people, setting the tone, and sharing the vision. More than anything else, leadership is a skillset that can be developed and learned like any other… no matter what anybody else might have told you. Here’s how I ultimately found my leadership success!
1. You don’t have to know everything
As a leader, you’ve usually been hired for your leadership skills. You haven’t been hired because you’re a technical expert or the person who can recite the product page back to front or answer any question about the new-fangled system or to know exactly how to hit every single target you have to achieve. There are usually other product experts, system experts somewhere you can access them. There is a wealth of knowledge within your team that you can harness to work out a plan for achieving those targets. It’s your job to listen to your team and inspire them by creating a vision and direction you’re all aiming for.
2. You set the tone
If you expect your team to model your company’s values, make sure you’re modelling those values yourself. Whatever those values are, they need to be echoed in your behaviour. Your people won’t read your company’s mission statement every day but they do watch you in action. If they see you behaving in opposition to the company’s values, they will start to mirror your behaviour. So be aware of how your words and actions are being perceived and remember that even things like your body language will have an impact.
3. Celebrate the wins
We’re all eager to push ourselves and our businesses forward, but it’s super-important to pause for a moment and celebrate when your team hits a milestone, goes out of their way, or completes a project. Or just does something that makes you smile! In the past, I made the mistake of pushing for the next milestone too soon and watched my team’s shoulders slump and their eyes dim. Celebration and praise mean a lot to people, so don’t ignore them.
4. Don’t blame yourself for underperformance
If you’ve been clear about your expectations and your team has clarity on its goals, but some individuals aren’t performing - it’s important to accept that you are not the problem. Sometimes as leaders, it’s easier to blame ourselves in order to avoid that uncomfortable conversation. Don’t make excuses for your team. Have the appropriate conversation and address the issue, whatever it may be. Always ensure that your lines of communication are open and that you’re actively working to understand how your team best perform.
5. Coach, coach, and coach
Coaching is the single best way to develop your team. Not the old-fashioned BS sandwich! Meaningful, authentic coaching that comes from your positive intent to help your team member be the best they can be. If you want to be a great leader and create amazing teams, learn how to coach and make it your daily habit. Every conversation is a coaching opportunity!
6. Always be grateful
As a Leader, you’re in a really privileged position. You have the opportunity to leave a legacy you can really be proud of. If you do it right, you can build something that you can step away from and it runs like clockwork. That’s a massive privilege. Not many people have the chance to do that in their working lives. So always be aware that you have the opportunity to do great things, and say thank you every day… no matter how difficult and stressful it might get!
7. Never stop learning
I’m not talking about your professional knowledge and your coaching skills, although of course you should always keep learning to deepen and strengthen those things. I’m talking about your leadership skills. Ask your team regularly how you’re doing, what they need from you, how you can help them excel. Some of the best feedback about your leadership skills you’ll ever get can come from the people working for you.
If you’re doing your job right, they’ll feel confident and safe enough to really share their feedback, instead of telling you what they think you want to hear.
We’re all human beings
The one thing I’ve always been clear on as a leader is that, at the end of every decision and action I took, there was a human being who needed to understand what I wanted, why I wanted it, and what it would mean to them. Making sure that the people working for you understand through you how they fit into the wider organisational goals, is one of the most important things you can do as a Leader.
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Love and hugs,