LEARNING TO LEAD
Why workers should have confidence in their leaders
BY Archana Law
Did you ever play this game as a child where someone volunteers to be the leader, and everyone lines up behind him or her and copies the moves they make? Sometimes the stunts were pretty basic such as hopping, giant steps and so on while others were more daring – ones that you may not have practised before.
So did the leader encourage teammates or try to throw them off with tricks that are too difficult to mimic?
While this childhood game is not a comprehensive guidebook to leadership, there are some parallels that may encourage us to recognise the leadership skills we’re discussing. Think about the leaders you respect and admire. Chances are they distinguish themselves because they serve others with genuine humility, are transparent and do not hesitate to display vulnerability.
They measure success with the impact that their organisations and they have on others too along with the results. And they believe that if they love what they do and who they do it for, it’s not difficult to produce extraordinary results.
So are such leaders born or do they acquire these characteristics over time?
I believe that while people may be born with certain leadership qualities, leading from the heart is a learned trait.
Leaders often feel pulled in many different directions and it can be difficult to figure out where they should be leading from. They must be careful to stay grounded and lead from the right place because otherwise, they could easily be like a ship blown from its mooring, adrift with plenty of work to do but no stability.
So where should people lead from?
Well, they could lead from a compassionate heart, a clear mind and a place of stability through conscious practice.
BE SELF-AWARE By being emotionally self-aware, leaders can use emotion to motivate others. Highly effective leaders possess an ability to move through complex situations, adjusting to human needs. Practise what Bill Adams and Bob Anderson call conscious leadership to realise the full impact of your words and actions on others, and consciously balance composure and command.
BE INCLUSIVE Place emphasis on building result focussed relationships. By building deliberate relationships with their teams, effective leaders understand what motivates individuals and what their emotional needs are.
Use your teams’ collective talents and engage them by challenging them, ask open-ended quality questions during meetings to create dialogue and gain buy in from others, make the team accountable and strive for a higher common purpose.
BE CLEAR Be clear about why you are leading, what you want from the experience and what’s of overall importance to the organisation. This is different to the company’s purpose and is often overlooked.
To create an atmosphere of trust and unity, particularly during adverse times, consistently communicate to let your teams know they are supported. Be a role model to show how others should be treated and goals pursued.
Remember that if you are ruthless and brusque, you’re setting this as the tone for the team. Seldom does this build a productive long-term environment. Instead, always show how you expect the team to perform by showing them how you’re committed to the group’s impact.
GROUP BUY IN Know your team and build a vision of success that’s shared by the group. When a measure of success involves everyone on the team, it’s much more likely that there will be group buy in.
Without group buy in to your vision, you will not reap the richness of cohesion and group energy. Check in with the team to make sure they are all working on their tasks and encourage support for those who are having trouble mastering new tasks.
BE INNOVATIVE Push the boundaries of how things have always been done. Innovation is essential in a changing world. Don’t allow yourself to be boxed in by ideas that have proved effective in the past but may be limited in the present.
Do your research but encourage creativity and innovativeness in your team, master new challenges and actively engage in the pursuit of shared goals.
BE PASSIONATE Reach deep into the hearts of your team members and stir them into action. Leaders who are aloof, distant or removed from their teams seldom achieve the best results.
To believe that their actions have purpose in this world, humans need to see value in their work. And in many workplaces, this requires top-down acknowledgment and appreciation of the work done by teams.
Effective leaders touch the hearts of their followers, and create an environment that enables each team member to be fully valued and inspired. Passion, drive and a commitment to quality are all important; but a passionate commitment to your team is what makes the group function at its greatest effectiveness and enthusiasm.