So, forget your MBA and your Doctorate in Leadership Development from Harvard. It’s expensive, it won’t help you (apparently), it takes an inordinate amount of time and effort to secure, and people will look at you with a mixture of suspicion and derision for years to come.
I have had the pleasure and misery of working for a broad range of leaders over the years in the ‘service’ space and perhaps the best method of developing and fine-tuning leadership skills came from one of the worst leaders I have ever worked for…this guy clearly suffered from a combination of small man syndrome, a perception of superior knowledge and when mixed with a rather ‘cocky you need me more than I need you’ attitude from my good self, ensured an inevitable split which is best assigned to the annals of ‘don’t do that again Williams you idiot’ history.
Before I give this rather ‘costly’ lesson to you I have to admit I love leaders – of all kinds – and I think most people would agree that the perfect leader quite simply does not exist. In fact, many of the leaders we admire, and respect are often deeply flawed individuals particularly where your opinion of them dependent on whether it’s framed as a casual observer, middle management or God forbid, direct report employee. I love Mr. LinkedIn Richard Branson – as a casual observer he is a supreme communicator, a leadership brand, an ability to empathise with consumers like no other… or is .. if you worked for him would you say the same thing… 24/7. 365. Possibly, possibly not and probably only in the confines of your innermost thoughts. Personally, I always wondered why he needed an island… do not accept that reward-based fishing trip, if you are sure you are underperforming.
So here we go. Follow these steps precisely and start the clock:
- Take one blank A4 sheet and a pen
- Picture all the leaders you worked for through the years and pick the one you liked the most – the one that motivated you, inspired you, empathise with you, made you feel like top of the tree even though you were actually in the undergrowth.
- On the left side of the page write down all the behaviours that you loved about this individual. The way they spoke to How they brokered loyalty and commitment. How they made you want to go the extra mile. How they made customer feel warm and fuzzy even in difficult situations. How they managed crises in a cool calm and collected fashion. Write down it all in bullet points. Hurry you only have 1 minute to do it. You should end up with words like charisma, passion, customer centric, operational excellence.
- Pause. Breathe deep.
- Now really think deeply about all the things you did not Write them down on the right-hand side of the page. Again, be honest. You might end up with comments like; took credit for my work; bad tempered; unforgiving; over promised/under-delivered; didn’t respect your work life balance. Hurry you have one minute.
- Now tear the page in two and throw the piece on the right into the Now adopt all the behaviours on the left.
- Give yourself a brief team talk and get on with it (you have 30 seconds). We are all leaders.
I’m not going to share what I ended up with mine save to say I need to work on my ‘Charis- ma’… the behaviour across many of the leaders I have worked was the ‘insulator’ which pretty much ensured, in the early part of my career, I would commit mass murder at their slightest whim. Experience is a painful master at times and these days my leadership evaluator and radar looks for individuals with the leadership ability and empathy to recognise what I’m good at (suggestions welcome!) and perhaps more importantly where I fall short… but to do so in way which retains loyalty, respect and a passionate approach to doing business in these demanding times.