What Makes a Better Leader?
I was asked by a colleague what book would I recommend to make them a better leader. I struggled: although most are sprinkled with useful gems, principles, case studies and will hold up a successful individual or two as “great leaders” they fall short of telling you what you actually need to do. With my colleague I rather unhelpfully fell back on Field Marshal the Lord Slim, who famously told Sandhurst Cadets “leadership is plain you”. This doesn’t dispel the ‘you either have it or you don’t’ stigma, but he was right – a good leader needs to be themselves, rather than trying to emulate what they think of as 'great leadership'.
There is not a mystical trait that makes people follow another: people follow someone they trust. It’s hard to trust someone who is trying to project a persona, or who is more concerned with how they are perceived by the team rather than getting the job done. Has anyone ever said “they come over as being really false and I don't trust them, but they’re a great leader!" Business leaders need to stop trying to project an image of leadership and start concentrating on the basics. Trust is a two-way thing; if you don't trust your team to deliver, then they won't trust you to lead. Leaders need to be able to take sensible decisions and to 'sell them', one that is possible for others to buy into. A leader must have sound 2-way communication-skills so they understand their team, can take ideas and feedback from them but ultimately take them on the path to the goal. They need to be professionally competent, know their trade and be personally effective so that they are respected. Suddenly my list seems far more grounded and achievable! Communications and logical thinking can be trained, as can methods for improving personal effectiveness. Concentrate on the basics, be yourself, trust your team to deliver and they will follow you - and if you're being followed, then by definition you are a leader!