11 Leadership Lessons Learned

I like a little alliteration, so here’s 11 things I’ve learned about leadership – mostly from much admired colleagues, and just a little of my own experience.

Please agree, disagree or add yours…..

In no particular order:

1. Talk less, listen more. People will pay attention to what you say, just because of your position. The leader’s job is to pay attention to what other people say, especially those who think their views don’t count. Show you’re listening  by acting on what people tell you, and gain trust by giving them the credit.

2. Don’t step in with solutions too quickly. No-one learns anything new, if you keep doing what you already know how to do, and don’t allow others to try. Anyway, they may find a different, or better way, and if not… mistakes are valuable too.

3. Don’t be the smartest person in the room. Being a leader does not mean knowing more than anyone else. Recognise, encourage and promote others as the experts. Give them the trust and autonomy to be creative and do excellent work, defined in their terms. You simply provide the direction, so that this excellent work contributes to a shared purpose.

“When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves.’” – Lao Tzu

4. Be authentic, passionate, even emotional, about what you believe in. Share your vision and live the values. The personal is more engaging, even inspiring, than the process.

5. Don’t ‘dis’ downwards. Once a decision is made by the Board, or the leadership team, it’s yours even if you argued against it during discussions. Your job as leader is to get others to believe in, and work towards, a shared goal, not to divide opinion or loyalties.

6. I’m OK: You’re OK. Start from the position that everyone is doing the best they can, then look for ways to support and encourage them – which is so much more rewarding than finding fault.

7. Sense of purpose – your team know what they do and how to do it well, but you can make a big difference by sharing a strong sense of why. Help them develop a broad understanding of team purpose and faith in how their role contributes to the whole. (Remember the floor-sweeper at NASA?)

8. Being right isn’t enough – a great idea is of no consequence unless you can convince others to believe it too, and then persuade them to help you make your idea a reality. The best way to do this is to make the idea theirs.

9. Focus on a few things that really matter and where you can make a difference. There may be a hundred different distractions and demands on your time, and a hundred ways you could respond, but its the dozen carefully chosen actions that deliver the results.

10. Get out and about, and in the work. It’s hard to retain that sense of what the job’s really about, sat in the office. You’ll see what people actually do, rather than what people tell you they do. And you’ll see their commitment, effort and achievements first hand, and feel proud to be part of the same team. Always inspiring, and informative, and better than any meeting!

11. Keep trying. Don’t beat yourself up when you don’t live up to your own expectations. Reflect and learn from those times when you stumble and fall over 1-10 above.

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