While leadership is easy to explain, leadership is not so easy to practice. Leadership is about behaviour first, skills second. Good leaders are followed chiefly because people trust and respect them, rather than the skills they possess. Leadership is different to management. Management relies more on planning, organisational and communications skills. Leadership relies on management skills too, but more so on qualities such as integrity, honesty, humility, courage, commitment, sincerity, passion, confidence, positivity, wisdom, determination, compassion and sensitivity. Some people are born more naturally to leadership than others. Most people don’t seek to be a leader. Those who want to be a leader can develop leadership ability.
Leadership can be performed with different styles. Some leaders have one style, which is right for certain situations and wrong for others. Some leaders can adapt and use different leadership styles for given situations.
Ten Leadership Tips
Jack Welch, respected business leader and writer is quoted as proposing these fundamental leadership principles:
1. There is only one way – the straight way. It sets the tone of the organisation
2. Be open to the best of what everyone, everywhere, has to offer; transfer learning across your organisation
3. Get the right people in the right jobs – it is more important than developing a strategy
4. An informal atmosphere is a competitive advantage
5. Make sure everybody counts and everybody knows they count
6. Legitimate self-confidence is a winner – the true test of self-confidence is the courage to be open
7. Business has to be fun – celebrations energise and organisation
8. Never underestimate the other guy
9. Understand where real value is added and put your best people there
10. Know when to meddle and when to let go – this is pure instinct
As a leader, your main priority is to get the job done, whatever the job is. Leaders make things happen by:
- Knowing your objectives and having a plan how to achieve them
- Building a team committed to achieving the objectives
- Helping each team member to give their best efforts
As a leader you must know yourself. Know your own strengths and weaknesses, so that you can build the best team around you.
Plan carefully, with your people where appropriate, how you will achieve your aims. You may have to redefine or develop your own new aims and priorities. Leadership can be daunting for many people simply because no-one else is issuing the aims – leadership often means you have to create your own from a blank sheet of paper. Set and agree clear standards. Keep the right balance between ‘doing’ yourself and managing others ‘to do’.
Build teams. Ensure you look after people and that communications and relationships are good. Select good people and help them to develop. Develop people via training and experience, particularly by agreeing objectives and responsibilities that will interest and stretch them, and always support people while they strive to improve and take on extra tasks. Follow the rules about delegation closely – this process is crucial. Ensure that your managers are applying the same principles. Good leadership principles must cascade down through the whole organisation. This means that is you are leading a large organisation you must check that the processes for managing, communicating and developing people are in place and working properly.
Communication is critical. Listen, consult, involve, and explain why as well as what needs to be done.
Some leaders lead by example and are very ‘hands on’; others are more distanced and let their people do it. Whatever – your example is paramount – the way you work and conduct yourself will be the most you can possibly expect from your people. If you set low standards you are to blame for low standards in your people.
“… Praise loudly, blame softly”. (Catherine the Great). Follow this maxim.
If you seek one single most important behaviour that will rapidly earn you respect and trust among your people, this is it: Always give your people the credit for your achievements and successes. Never take the credit yourself – even if it’s all down to you, which would be unlikely anyway. You must however take the blame and accept responsibility for any failings or mistakes that your people make. Never, never, never publicly blame another person for a failing. Their failing is your responsibility – true leadership offers is no hiding place for a true leader.
Take time to listen to and really understand people. Walk the job. Ask and learn about what people do and think, and how they think improvements can be made.
Accentuate the positive. Express things in terms of what should be done, not what should not be done. If you accentuate the negative, people are more likely to veer towards it. Like the mother who left her five-year-old for a minute unsupervised in the kitchen, saying as she left the room, “…don’t you go putting those beans up your nose…”
Have faith in people to do great things – given space and air and time, everyone can achieve more than they hope for. Provide people with relevant interesting opportunities, with proper measures and rewards and they will more than repay your faith.
Take difficult decisions bravely, and be truthful and sensitive when you implement them.
Constantly seek to learn from the people around you – they will teach you more about yourself than anything else. They will also tell you 90% of what you need to know to achieve your business goals.
Embrace change, but not for change’s sake. Begin to plan your own succession as soon as you take up your new post, and in this regard, ensure that the only promises you ever make are those that you can guarantee to deliver.