Leadership Are You Up To The Mark?

LeaderI was recently hired to facilitate a conference on Executive Development. High potential Engineers, smart and good fun. At the end of 3 days, we came up with 9 Leadership commandments. How many of these can you apply in your job?

  1. Definition:
    Leadership = ‘the ability to bring about positive change’.  Change does not belong to any specific personality type. Introverts can make things happen too! It’s not about ‘look at me’! It is about ‘look at what I’ve achieved’.
  1. Managers Manage ‘Today': 
    Leadership is focused on tomorrow. While it’s never 100% tomorrow – if you are 100% focused on today you’re not leading, you are managing.  The real ‘trick’ is to learn to manage both timeframes – at the same time (you won’t get away with completely ignoring today stuff).
  1. Future Vision:
    How do you determine what ‘tomorrow’ will look like? To create tomorrow you can demonstrate your individual genius, or, you can ask for help. You are surrounded by genius. Customers, suppliers, competitors, staff. People are ‘oil gushers’ of creativity. All for free. Get on that train or plane.  But… you can only do this if you create ‘space’ in your diary. Medicine is not always pleasant – but we understand the need to take it.
  1. Share the News:
    Once you’ve assembled the data, your job then becomes Director of Fog Clearance. Creating ‘certainty’ for the people who work for you has to be managed alongside being able to personally tolerate ambiguity (by implication, tomorrow is never ‘certain’). The trick is to build personal tolerance for not knowing the answer to everything – you essentially become “comfortable being uncomfortable”.
  1. But, I’m so busy…
    You need to create space in your diary to work on the ‘tomorrow agenda’. How? 2 tools. Delegation and rigorous time management.  We all have the same number of hours.  Being busy is OK as an excuse at a moment in time – but not as a lifelong ‘get out of jail’ card – an excuse or explanation for never moving the needle forward (in the leadership game, marginal movements don’t count).
  1. Little Old Me:  
    You can really make a difference – both with individuals and with full teams. Paddy Kelly, the property developer, started his working life as carpenter. Somewhere along the way he locked onto the following idea: “If it has to be, it’s up to me”. How much ambition do you have for your area? Where is your real passion? Can you ‘serve a new apprenticeship’ in Leadership? Can leading become your trump card (over and above your core discipline)? It can be a bit scary to ‘take a stand’ or deliver bad news. It’s scary to swim against the consensus. All the attention is paid to the athlete who ‘has the ball’. Take small steps. Learn to lead incrementally. But do it now. Don’t be a leader ‘tomorrow’. Start being a leader today (by bringing about positive change).
  1. Don’t Rush It: 
    Oops! Try to  avoid the usual ‘tripwires’ – look at the New Manager Assimilation Program (on the Tandem Consulting Website). Don’t be arrogant on day 1.  Listen hard. Take time to understand. Then make changes. Leadership is not measured with a ‘stopwatch’.
  1. Storytelling:
    As the world becomes more ‘digital friendly’, multi-media can be very powerful (and sometimes great fun).  But… ‘old technology’ (e.g. storytelling) works well too. It’s not either/or:  use both. Being graphic (in words and pictures) helps messages to stick. And, it’s seldom a 1-off; you have to campaign change programs – sometimes using marketing/advertising techniques (“If Carlsberg did leadership…”). 
  1. Be Positive:
    All successful leaders are positive. They find ways ‘around roadblocks’. This is not the same as ‘saluting the company flag’ on the launch of every single new initiative. You are not Pollyanna. While no organization allows ‘internal opposition’, you have to be true to yourself and not falsely positive all the time. In the final analysis, leaders are ‘real’ – ordinary people who manage to create extra-ordinary results by focus and leveraging the talents of people around them. While we might never become Nelson Mandela or Mother Teresa, we can become the very best that we can be. That’s the lifelong challenge for all of us.