No one person is able to build a great organisation alone. Great organisations are built by exceptional teams, consisting of dedicated individuals that work well together through effective leadership.
Great teams are invariably well led, but teams that consist of 'leaders' - rather than followers - are the ones that truly excel.
Lead2Fusion grow these individual leadership skills, to create strong leadership and high-performing teams throughout an organisation, maximising return on investment and greatly enhancing individual motivation and commitment.
Using rigorous analysis we determine where the most impact can be made to unlock the potential within your teams.
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!
Who Wants to Lead?
Few people I meet describe themselves as leaders. It even sounds odd "Hi I'm Marcus, I'm a leader", but we identify people as leaders all the time. There are people at work we admire, usually high achievers with seemingly endless talents: figures in the public eye; our politicians; gregarious business leaders. These are people we follow in our actions or what we aspire to be. In business the success of many brands is attributed to a highly skillful leader. We define our understanding of leaders with shining examples and we make leadership an attribute either you have, or you don’t - an unattainable goal. What makes them deserve this status? Terms that spring to mind are exceptional, courageous, disciplined, committed, caring, charismatic, highly competent, self-confident, respected and honest. If I am to follow someone in business I’d like them to know what they are doing, have faith in themselves, be credible and not be lying to me. However, the problem with these qualities are the list grows ever longer and most are as ethereal and emotive as the term 'leader' itself. We therefore become line managers, P3M professionals (from a job spec I read last week) or team supervisors. In truth however if we have people following us, we are leaders. How can we behave like one and earn the mantle?
We believe the cornerstone is to be yourself. If you are yourself then you will appear to others to be open and honest, because you are. By being true to yourself you will always establish a degree of trust. That is the foundation, but alone it is not enough. A small child can be open and honest, and it would be on many role descriptions from finance directors to cleaners, but I wouldn’t necessarily follow either. But someone who is professionally competent, able to make sensible decisions and communicate them, has the makings of someone who people might follow. They would be, by definition then, leading. With those skills they could get results, attract good quality staff who would enjoy working for them, clients would be happy, and the company could grow. Having effective leadership across the organisation is where many businesses either succeed or fail. If we actively develop those core skills in ourselves and those in our teams, we would grow steadily the next generation of leaders. Some of them we might even eventually follow too!
Are You Leading?
Even if you don’t know it, or don’t want to be, you are most probably a leader. Somebody, somewhere looks to you for tasks, guidance, help or inspiration. And I hope you’re good at it, because if you’re not, you’re letting them down.
Last week a man posted he quit because his manager rejected a request for a pay rise. He’d gone the extra mile for months. The manager brushed him off telling him he’d got a raise last year, same as everyone else. He felt undervalued, ignored, and worse, let down by someone he respected - so left. Initially I mentally chastised the manager. Then I put myself in their shoes. I bet they worked hard too, got the job done and did their best to manage the work-load for the team. They ran good team meetings, and the team were a success – the manager applied to the board and got the team a pay rise last year. Their boss, the leader, was happy. Then 9 months on one of the team asked for more money. When the manager explained the team were all rewarded last year they quit. What had they done wrong?
By defining jobs as management positions, we imply a functional, process driven role. Leadership roles are for those at the top, the arm waving brave, those striking out on the road to success, over-achieving through hard decisions and telling people what to do. This is wrong. Anyone in a management role is a leader. If you have people who you manage, delegate work to, or they come to you with product or issues by default you are leading them. The key task for a leader is to balance the achievement of the tasks with the requirement to keep the team together and look after the individuals in the team. John Adair devised the concept of team, task and individual - the 3 balls a leader juggles. I think of it as 3 forces pulling the leader in different directions, and the leader must maintain the equilibrium. Without those 3 aspects working in harmony people get disenfranchised, teams become dysfunctional and tasks slip. If you’re a leader, and you probably are, consider how much time you spend on each one. It will not be equal all the time – before a deadline the task may come first, followed by the team, but the balance will need to be adjusted to the individual soon after. If the manager at the start of this article recognised this they might have noticed the hard work the employer had been putting in and have got him that extra raise before they asked for it, managed his expectations or simply thanked them for going the extra mile. What went wrong? Perhaps their own boss, who the manager looks up to and goes the extra mile for, let them down by failing to notice their management needed some useful training in effective leadership.
There are 2 things you need to be a leader – somewhere to go and someone to follow you
It sounds so simple but where to go? What are your values, goals and purpose? What drives the organisation, the people and you? It’s often useful to start with what is wrong with where you are now. You got there for good reason and with considerable effort. But our environment evolves, the marketplace moves on and the rules are always changing. You have to move on, but you must have a clear vision of the future to highlight the way. You will need a sound decision-making process to make sure this is right and then work out how you are going to get there: the strategy and the plan. Defining these core elements is not a solo activity. The more your potential followers contribute and share in the process the more likely they are to follow willingly; and many focused minds are better than one.
Why will people follow you? Firstly, you now have a logical plan leading to a goal that they can see and are bought in to. The ability to communicate effectively is key, not just telling but listening and understanding your team. Good leaders don’t necessarily need to be able to give rousing speeches – they need to be able to gain the trust of their teams by listening and reacting to what they hear. Communication means healthy debate and allowing others to be heard. It means pushing back when needed and knowing when to be firm but fair. It also means knowing when to give way and back-down if someone has a better idea. This builds trust; we do not follow those we do not trust.