Winston Churchill summed it up perfectly when he said: ‘Continuous effort, not strength or intelligence, is the key to unlocking our potential.’
This is even more pertinent when applied to leadership. Leading by example is by far the most successful way to motivate people and inspire them to give their best effort. Leaders are not born they are chosen, volunteered and sometimes given the role by default. Leading a team involves a diverse range of skills, and it’s a tough ask for anyone to have the full set of strategic, diplomatic, business and people skills needed to be effective.
We all have a definition of a good leader and there isn’t a one size fits all because we’re all very different. You might feel you have natural leadership ability and take it easily in your stride or you might struggle every day. Whatever you feel about your leadership qualities doesn’t matter. It’s about being authentic and recognising the value of teamwork, because ultimately, you don’t decide whether you are a leader or not – people decide whether or not they want to follow you and this is the key to being a successful leader.
The top ten things that helped me:
- Recognising early that success isn’t only about knowledge or position, it’s about being consistent and continuing to grow as you apply your knowledge
- Leaders need to be able to influence their teams, show them what they need to be successful and make sure they get it
- Being very clear about the definition of success and how to achieve it
- Controlling your own destiny, having the courage to face issues and challenges and not being afraid to ask for input from the team. The best leaders have teams that feel valued for their contribution
- Leading with a light hand. Trusting the skills and ability of the team and resisting the urge to micromanage
- Remembering what it felt like when you had a good leader and what you responded to
- Being swift in making tough decisions. Considering the options, making sure you’ve done all you can do and then making a timely decision
- Learning how to communicate with all the key stakeholders: the team, the board, senior management and customers. It may seem like spinning plates but communication is the vital to leadership and success
- When you feel you’re getting the hang of it, keep going. Never think you’re the best you can be. Continue to learn and continue to improve
- Be confident and remember that it’s not a sign of weakness to show vulnerability, admit you’re wrong or don’t know something. Encourage your team to share their knowledge with you and with each other. Everyone will benefit
There’s no right or wrong way to go about the business of leadership. It can be complex, rewarding, thankless, frustrating, and impossible but when your team starts to be consistently successful, and you realise that you’re no longer flying by the seat of your pants, you can start to enjoy it.
Enjoying being a leader really matters because confidence and enjoyment are contagious. When we enjoy what we do, we are truly successful.