For many years I have had a passion for organisational culture and leadership. This passion is not from some egotistical belief that I am a good leader personally but more of an intrinsic attraction and respect for those who influence and achieve great outcomes. Well after years of observation, some experience, too much study, and a lot of reading below is my “two bobs” on what I think makes great leadership:
- Health and Wellbeing – You can’t lead others unless you can lead yourself. If you are not healthy, if you don’t have a clear mind, and if you are not comfortable in your own skin this will have a ripple effect on your leadership ability. I recently had the opportunity to lead my first team and whilst I started well I sharply tapered off at the end. Why? I started with a clear mind, I had the self-belief and was feeling good about myself. After 18 of the toughest months I have experienced I was tired, unfit, and negative. I was no longer an effective leader. I worked so hard to achieve great things that I rendered myself un-capable of achieving great things. Since then I have worked hard on the basics – prioritise your health, don’t sweat the small stuff, embrace failure as an opportunity; always remain objective; keep perspective on what is important; maintain compassion for others; and whilst you routinely seek feedback never worry about what other people think of you.
- Integrity and Courage – Integrity is about doing what is right. Opposite to this is acting with self-interest. Observe those motivated by doing what is right. They are prepared to make tough decisions to ensure the right outcome is achieved; they inspire and motivate others; they are predictable and consistent; they are honest with themselves and with others; and they bring purpose to themselves and others around them. On the opposite self-interest we channel our energy in needing to be the noticed and admired, needing to please; needing to be liked; preventing failure, needing to look good, needing to fit in, needing to control or needing to dominate. The self-interest is about our self-belief and needing to protect our ego. We don’t back ourselves in so we develop ways to protect ourselves. In contrast great leaders back themselves in so they are not fearful of the personal consequences of their actions. They are driven by outcomes and doing what is right. It is not about them, it is about the cause.
- Sense of Purpose and Commitment – Great leaders have a higher sense of purpose about why they exist. For them it isn’t about promotion, power or making money. It something bigger than that and something which drives their very being. The money and accolades just follow because they operate at a higher level of performance and that attracts the rewards.
- Authenticity and Honesty – Great leaders are honest with themselves, honest with others, and create an environment where people feel comfortable to be honest with each other. Honest with themselves drives a feedback mindset; continuous learning and stops us blaming others. Honest with others ensures people are clear on expectations and provides genuine feedback to help others grow. Creating an open environment where people are honest with each other fosters learning, innovation, new ideas, and uncovers issues. They encourage conflict on the basis of mutual commitment to the cause and a desire to get the right outcomes. They accept facts and they seek the truth. They take responsibility and always look to learn from mistakes.
- Driven by outcomes –Great leaders understand the balance between people and task, and measure success by outcomes they influence. They understand how people tick, how to influence others and recognise the importance of shared understanding and commitment in moving towards a vision recognising that you can’t do it alone. They balance this with a bias for action and achievement, and they maintain focus on what is important. They have clear picture of where energy needs to be channelled. They have a clear set of measures and focus on the key levers which make a difference. They challenge the norm and ask they question ‘why are we doing this’ and ‘how does it make a difference’.
- Patience and Persistence – Great leaders have a vision. They don’t lose sight of what they are trying to achieve. They are strategic, patient and wise in how they move their team towards their vision. They don’t let setbacks knock them down, but rather see setbacks as an opportunity for growth.
Great leaders don’t have to manage large numbers of staff or don’t have to have a title. Leadership is about mind-set and influencing outcomes. It is about motivation and what we want to achieve. It is about influencing others and building commitment. That can be done at any level. You don’t need to wait for permission or be given that promotion before you start to lead.