We’ve blogged a lot about leadership over the last few months.
We’ve analysed some of the world’s most powerful leaders, both in and outside of the corporate world. From Marillyn Hewson, Mary Barra and Brenda Trenowden, who are demanding a newer, more human approach alongside shrewd initiative, making tough decisions and getting better results; to the toxic styles of Elon Musk and Donald Trump.
Our world of all things leadership has changed – and it's going to keep on changing. We’ve listened to the leaders we work with and have chosen to highlight some of the challenges for leaders today. Industries, customers, business models and styles differ but many of our challenges are shared. What does it mean for today’s leader to lead in a more global, more digital, and arguably more demanding environment than ever before? We’ve explored many of the different qualities that prove essential for leaders to succeed in this new climate. We’ve considered the importance of looking ahead and finding ways to prepare our future leaders for growth.
So, what have we learned and what happens next? How can we translate all of these insights into an action plan for transforming our leaders?
How can we become leaders that inspire, leaders that get the best out of people, and leaders that people want to work with?
Lead with kindness
Kindness typically did not feature on a list of ideal leadership attributes but that too is changing. Research and experience tells us that having a diversity of perspective at the top is better for everything – especially your bottom line.
Being a kind leader works alongside making tough business decisions. Marillyn Hewson, chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin and the most powerful woman in the world according to
Fortune magazine, is a case in point. She counts both compassion and decisiveness as fundamental traits of leadership.
So, how can you bring a little more kindness into your leadership style?
- Let people know what is expected of them. This relies on having a clear sense of direction and being able to communicate that with your team. Make sure people know the role they play in the goals for the business. That way they can't ever be hung out to dry.
- Give honest feedback. Kindness doesn’t mean telling people what they want to hear. To get the best out of people sometimes you need to push or pull them in the right direction, but you can do this with kindness.
- Give people opportunities to grow and develop so that they achieve their full potential and gain self-worth
- Be transparent in your decision making, rather than hiding things and letting people worry about a constant tirade of change
- Treat people like people. Celebrate their successes, talk to them like adults, and check in to see how they're doing - on both a professional and personal level.
Lead with purpose - and trust people to follow
Leaders who know why they do what they do and who share this purpose with their team are the ones who will inspire and motivate people. So what’s your purpose? Have you communicated this well enough with your team?
Let Hilton CEO Christopher J. Nassetta inspire you. Talking about what it means to be a good leader, he says:
“It’s really about developing a culture and creating an environment where people feel like they are part of something bigger than they are, where you are able to empower people to operate with freedom, within a framework. My job is to make sure I set that framework, so that we set out a clear vision mission, the values of the company, the key priorities of the company. And last, but not least, and most importantly, that I lead by example.”
So tell people your purpose and your vision for the team. Set out a framework that gives people freedom to play a part in achieving that vision. Then trust that people will do what they say they will. The more people who can put their hands up and say “I made this happen”, the happier, more driven and more successful your team will be.
Draw strength from others
You don't have to know everything to be a good leader. Leadership comes in ebbs and flows of leading and following. When you have the experience to lead, lead. When you don’t, draw on others to take the lead for you. Make room for them and hold it carefully and graciously.
This sounds simple, but how do you make this happen in reality?
You start by creating a culture where people feel comfortable stepping up to have a say, rather than being told what to do and micromanaged. Ask for feedback too. That's a simple way to show people you're open to being challenged and hearing their viewpoints.
Address the elephant in the room
Are there things holding your people or your company back? Frustrations over processes, a need for training, or a general lack of morale?
These problems won’t go away on their own. Part of being a good leader is continually striving for improvement, whether that’s working on your own skills or building your team up to be better than it was yesterday.
It can be difficult to talk about what’s not working. But you can be sure your team are talking about it, whether they share it with you or not. Change has to happen from the top, so address the elephant in the room and do something about it. Leading by example you also encourage others to raise frustrations, concerns or ideas.
Now is the time to address the problems in your team - just remember to approach them with kindness.
Keep your team connected
Gone are the days where all workers sit together in one office from 9-5 day-in-day-out. With remote working continuing to rise and more organisations operating on a global level, keeping everyone on the same page and connected can be a struggle.
It doesn’t have to be. Here’s how:
- Clearly communicate your team’s vision and goals so that everyone is working towards the same things, whether they’re in a different building, country, or continent. This might mean more visits, more time together, or better technology to connect you. Getting people working as one cohesive team should be your number one priority.
- Make sure remote workers know when they’re expected to be “online” and contactable
- Leverage video technology and chat tools so that your team can stay connected to you and each other
- Make yourself available to people so they know you care
- Trust your team. If people feel trusted, they feel valued, and this is what will drive them to be the best version of themselves.
Embrace your multi-generational workforce
The workplace has always spanned multiple generations, each with their own points of cultural references and differing expectations. The media like us to pit one generation against another, but in reality we are all more similar than we are different. We each wake up wanting to do a good job, it’s just that sometimes things get in our way. Frustrations and perceived differences can drive your workforce apart; but only if you let them.
A multi-generational workforce is a positive thing - embrace the different experiences and mindsets of your employees to create a more rounded workforce. Help them to learn from one another and progress together.
- Keep your eyes open to the fact that what motivates your Millennial workers and what makes your Baby Boomers tick may be very different. Being a good leader means being attuned to individual differences and adapting your leadership style to get the best out of people.
- Avoid focusing on generational stereotypes. Get to know your team as individuals, not by their generation. Not all Millennials are ‘entitled’ and not all Baby Boomers are ‘cynical’. Stop, take some time to understand what you really mean by these assessments and how they play out in behaviour and results. What benefits do they bring and how can you harness this additional energy?
- Create opportunities for cross-generational mentoring so people can share skills, knowledge and experiences with each other, and build stronger relationships at the same time.
So, what are you waiting for?
It’s never too late to be a better leader.
Kickstart your leadership revolution now.