Of course most people that write autobiographies in life are successful in some way or another; more likely in a range of arenas, not just the one they are know in. Michael Jordan is an astute businessman, as are Taylor Swift, Tom Cruise and Tony Blair. Plenty of academics write about the traits that make these people the top of their respective games and all-round influencers. They talk about their passion, drive, IQ, creativity and fearlessness, amongst a multitude of others. One thing is for sure; they have followers.
To me therefore, any of the traits that make them excel, most likely collectively increase their leadership ability; because ultimately, leadership is about followers. (see an interesting article on Forbes here)
So therefore by default, leadership is the most important thing. To me, if the end goal is leadership and to achieve it successfully I need to tick all the boxes that describe good leadership, I am sorted as a person too. Good leaders have integrity and are trusted, so therefore they are honest and truthful. They receive respect outside of hierarchy, so therefore they must be respectful to others. They must inspire and energise a belief or direction, therefore they must be determined, focussed and excellent communicators. They are emotionally intelligent and mindful of their followers’ needs, therefore they are emotionally balanced, altruistic and good listeners. To sustain their following, they must make the right decisions to benefit the majority, and therefore they must be excellent decision-makers and accountable for their actions. In short, good leaders are good people.
So if businesses simply decided to focus on leadership as ‘The One Thing’ to invest in and get right, there is no doubt that the bottom line will follow on. USPs, Change Management, Market Share and Innovation are side effects of excellence, and excellence comes from people. People that are given the freedom to think, learn, dream, and perform; People that are led well.
Leadership isn’t just the CEO’s job, however. The impact of good leadership in middle management is tremendous on the business. Employees who’s line managers have good leadership skills will perform at a higher level than those controlled by autocracy. Middle managers with great senior managers will thrive, grow and go the extra mile in times of tough challenge. A senior team united by a great leader, empowered to reach their fullest potential will shine and take the business forwards. The opposite is also true. Bullies kill initiative; Lackadaisical managers kill enthusiasm; weak leaders lose all direction and motivation of the team. No amount of academic or technical training will reverse that.
So can leadership be taught, or are you just born the male in the lion pack? (Well the first point is to question whether the leader of the lion pack is the male in the first place, but that’s another story!) I believe that both nurture and nature play a part, and that leadership requires opportunity to develop. I do thing though, that at an executive level it is the MOST USEFUL thing to teach for business success. The crux however, is in the approach. Theoretical models of leadership are very important, as is the research that explains the traits and characteristics seen in good research, but the best way to teach it is learn it through practice – essentially, to DO it! However I don’t mean ‘flounder away’ until you get it right. Experiential learning through coaching or mentoring is probably the most effective way to learn.
Ultimate Performance creates a ‘leadership channel’ which is an ‘on call’ approach to mentoring and training that explores real life leadership development at the place of work. Leadership issues are encountered every day at work, so exploring options with an experienced coach immediately, speeds up the learning curve and maximises results. If you do not have access to a coach, find an experienced peer, or ask a superior you respect to ring-fence some of their weekly time to act as your sounding board. Read up, listen to podcasts and reflect on your daily experiences, to further enhance your growth. It’s as much ‘personal development’ as it is work-related. The benefits of leadership development are life-long.
For more information on our bespoke Leadership Development, The UP Leadership Channel and Executive Coaching, all specifically designed for your business, please get in touch.