Updated: Mar 16, 2022
Here are some thoughts on leadership, in no particular order:
Leadership is not about glory-seeking, personal power, profile raising or any other such ego-driven stuff.
Leadership is about inspiring, encouraging, motivating, empowering, supporting and protecting your people so that they can achieve the very best that is in them.
Your role as a leader is to serve those whom you lead. If you get this right they will follow you through hell and back.
Rules for leaders:
Pick your team. You need people you can work with and who can and will work together, harmoniously as a team.
Pick people who are smarter than you, at least in their chosen areas of expertise. Your role is to lead, not to be the expert on everything.
If you inherit your team from someone else, you will need to assess very carefully whether they are functioning well as a team. If not, your first priority must be to find out why and to do something about it.
Sometimes you will find you have a team member who is not working well within the team. You must work with that person without delay, or their behaviour will disrupt the entire team. If their issues can’t be resolved then you’ll have no choice but to move them on.
Trust is crucial. If your team members don’t trust you, or don't trust each other, conflict and eventual failure is pretty much guaranteed. If you can’t trust them, get them off your team.
Communicate your vision clearly, simply and often. It’s vital that every one of your team knows what the vision is and what their part in achieving it will be.
Empower your people to make decisions and to get the job done. They are professionals, they know what they’re doing and you can trust them. Once they know where the team is headed, get out of their way and let them get it done.
Your people are always your number one priority. Listen to them. Be there for them. Praise them for their wins. Check in with them regularly and put their welfare first. If a team member calls you at 2am, take the call.
Celebrate your team’s successes and name names when someone’s done a particularly good job.
Take responsibility for anything that’s not gone well. Never criticise your people publicly. If someone’s not measuring up, take them aside and work with them privately to figure out what’s wrong, then help them to sort it out so that they can get back on track.
Always have an eye on opportunities for yourself and your team members to develop and grow, personally and professionally. Encourage them to learn new skills and to grasp opportunities that come their way. Sure, this may mean you lose a valuable team member, but that only gives you an opportunity to develop someone new.
Hold your people to account, but do it gently. They know if they’ve screwed up, and they’ll recover and fix it up more quickly and more effectively if you support and encourage them.
Never, ever, micro-manage. This is the surest way to demotivate people and destroy trust.
Never, ever, whinge down. If you want to whinge, it’s your boss’s job to listen to you. If your boss can’t or won’t do that, take your whinge to someone who will.
If your boss is a poor leader, you may have to lead her/him. Do this gently and with tact and empathy. It will be next to impossible if your boss has a towering ego and/or is a narcissist or a psychopath, but it can be done if you are sly enough.
Never, ever, compromise your values. If your organisation’s culture is not fully aligned with your values, work to change the culture. If you can’t change the culture, don’t be afraid to walk away.
Despite what many with loud voices might say, bullying and intimidation are not part of leadership. Bullying and intimidation might bring results in the short term but if you engage in these behaviours your best people will be working somewhere else very soon.
Find yourself a mentor in whom you can confide and whom you can trust to be fearlessly honest with you. Meet with your mentor regularly and always listen carefully to what they tell you.
Engage in regular self-reflection. This is the best way you can learn as you go, particularly if you maintain a journal and you write it all down. The act of writing will help you to learn and remember the lessons that life, through the situations in which you've found yourself, has to teach you.