Leadership is something that often looks easy… but only if you’re watching great leaders. For the average person, the ability to lead is something that can take years to learn and even longer to master.
As a young leader, leading teams can be stressful, confusing and at times overwhelming; however, there is a key to being a great leader and when you crack it, you can lead and inspire your team well beyond expectations.
Below are six elements that, when interlocked, represent the DNA of a ‘natural born leader’. When separated and simplified, they become learnable and manageable traits.
1. Focus less on WHAT, more on WHY and HOW
Often we are promoted to leadership because we are good at what we do, we might be a great sales person, accountant or mechanic but as we move up the ladder, this becomes less important. The hard-skills gained from our previous role become outranked by the skills needed to create a high-performance culture. These skills in their simplest form, are the ability to express why something needs to happen and to shape the values and associated behaviours of your team to make it happen.
2. Protect high standards
Creating high performance cultures means that as leaders we need to believe in and protect our behavioural standards. It is said that the standard we walk past is the standard we accept, so if our culture is not performing, chances are we either have low standards and haven’t addressed this, or we have high standards but are afraid to use them. If we truly believe in our culture we do everything we can to protect the standards, and the ability to navigate hard conversations is part of this leadership skill set.
3. Fight for the best Idea
Fight for the best idea — not your idea — and create a culture where your team does too. As leaders, we need to ensure our teams are building ideas together. Too often in business credit is given to the person who looks like it was their idea, by doing this we create politics, infighting and knowledge hoarders. Instead we need to reward our teams based on shared values and their ability to build something together.
4. Serve others not self
Often we experience two vastly different but equally inefficient leaders; the first type is the arrogant leader, they are the individuals who will do anything to make themselves look good, even at the expense of their own team. The second type is the self-doubt leader, this person often appears self-depreciating, modest, or stressed but trying their best. At the core, both ‘leaders’ are making it all about them. As successful leaders, we need to focus on serving others rather than ourselves. We need to think, “what do my team need from me right now and how can I help them in reaching goals?”
5. Learn what motivates people
Currently we have more than 50% employee disengagement in the world—that’s an expensive waste of an asset. As leaders, our critical skillset needs to be how we develop and engage people potential. It’s not enough to know the product inside out, or the breakdown of financials, or the market economics, or the business processes, we must learn about our people. We need to invest in developing our people skills and learning what motivates and excites our people. We need to know how to create high performing environments and great cultures where people want to engage and contribute. We need to know how to develop and nurture ideas, building collaboratively on each other’s contributions. It may take time and be tough, but this is where the magic happens.
6. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable
In today’s world, where the only constant is change, it’s critical to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. As human beings, we seek certainty but sometimes the way we get certainty doesn’t serve us or our teams. When choosing a leadership style, make sure it is one that pushes you outside of your comfort zone; allows you to learn in the moment, connect with your team and adapt to change within the market and also your business.
About the author:
The founder of Achieve Lead Succeed, Rebecca Livesey is passionate about creating lasting positive change in people and their organisations through better leadership, strategy and culture. She has held numerous corporate leadership roles across Australia and the UK in a range of industries; including, energy, logistics and mining services, in Strategy, Commercial Management and CIO (IT) disciplines.