Over the next couple of weeks I will explore some of the key elements that I believe underpin an engaging leader. I have been fortunate to have experienced leadership in the military, small, medium and large sized businesses, government, non-profit, family owned and private sectors. When I reflect on all of these experiences, both as a leader and an employee, I believe that there are certain ingredients that underpin the quality of effective leaders:
- Being courageous
- Resilience and dealing with uncertainty
- Ability to keep things simple
- Sharing information
- Being eclectic
I will explore each of these ideas in brief over the next couple of weeks. Today though, here are my thoughts on the first point…
I remember the first time that I led a team, and the moment when I realised that the decisions I make will affect the lives of more than just me. Suddenly my decisions took on a new dimension. And it wasn’t just the person sitting opposite me that was affected by my decisions; it was their family as well. Sometimes tough decisions have to be made, and it isn’t easy knowing that the sphere of impact is greater than you and the person sitting opposite you. A good leader understands this and their decisions are respectful and respected as a result.
There is the courage to persevere when things get tough; especially in the face of adversity. Whether you are commanding troops in the field, asking someone to perform a hazardous task, or making the decision on which roles are to be made redundant when downsizing, being a strong leader in these situations takes strength of character and courage. The ability to keep your eye on the bigger picture will help you get through these times, and to lead in an assertive and empathic manner...especially when it counts.
Then there is the courage to be true to yourself and at the same time your people. For me this means being prepared to own up when I have made a mistake, not let my pride interfere with the building of an authentic working relationship. As a leader we want to get things right, and be seen to be doing the right thing – it’s only natural. But when working hard to be a strong leader it is easy to brush over our own imperfections, and easier to find fault with others. The best leaders get the idea of being authentic, and realise that one of the best ways to develop this is to increase their level of self-awareness. The more we understand about our values and the beliefs that can either get in the way of or enhance our style, the easier it is to lead in an authentic way.
These are three elements that underpin being courageous. The leaders I have enjoyed working for each demonstrated these qualities; and I hope that they are qualities I have inspired in the people I have led.
The next article will build on from this foundation and take a look at resilience and the ability to deal with uncertainty.