The best leaders have a high consideration factor. They really care about their people” – Brian Tracy

Does the quote of Brian Tracey have any value in today’s work environment? Are leaders still necessary in the new world of work?

Over the years leadership and research towards improving leadership has received great attention. However, can it be that during the process of exploring new ways and methods to improve leadership we forgot what leadership is all about? Peter Anderton takes us on a journey through time and highlights the best and worse leaders. He explained that in the sixth century (BC) a Chinese leader Lao Tzu said that a leader is best when people barely know he (or she) exists. And when his (or her) work is done, the aim fulfilled, the people will say, “we did it ourselves”. Roman consul Cicero explained that a leader can only reach results through other people. As we continue our journey through time, numerous leaders emphasise that leadership is about service. Serving the people.

Then a shift took place during the 16th century and people started believing that the focus should be on the leader and not on the people. Anderton explains that during this shift leaders believed that they should maintain power through force and deceit. This reality of leadership continued throughout the centuries and created a misinterpretation of the fundamental principles of leadership. In more recent times we have various methodologies and approaches to leadership which only contributes to the complexity of trying to define good leadership and how to be a good leader. Anderton stated that true leadership only have two rules or principles that we need to follow.

Rule number one, “It’s not about you”, it is about the people.

This makes the statement of ‘a leader is only a leader if he or she has followers’ so true. Anderton emphasis that the basic principle of this rule is not to create more followers to come to you but to create more leaders as a leader.

Authentic leadership can be the link between rule number one and rule number two as Anderton explains it. Ultimately authentic leadership brings us to rule number two because it is not a model or role model we have to follow to be a great leader, but in essence, it is to be “turning out at the top point of who we really are…”. In sum, it’s trying to be less of somebody else and more to be true to yourself. Having a clear picture of what we stand for, what our strengths and weakness are and behaving in a transparent way that links all these things together.

John Maxwell’s five levels of leadership and why people follow leaders emphasise authentic leadership’s place in leading people. Each layer goes deeper and deeper and creates a deeper level of commitment. Ultimately leaders should aim to get their people to follow them based on level five of Maxwell’s model, to follow you because of who you are and what you represent. This brings us to rule number two.

Rule number 2 “It’s only about you”

If you want to bring change around you it starts within, it starts with who you are and your behaviours. If we want that deeper level of commitment, where employees do not dash out of the office at ten to five, we as leaders should start with ourselves. It is easier to play the blaming game, but true leaders look at themselves and realise that to change the dynamics of a team starts with him (or her). If you as a leader want others to live up to your expectations it begins with who you are, what you represent, what you believe in, and what you do. Nelson Mandela is a great example of this rule, for he said that I cannot change others before I change myself.

This shifts the focus completely. It emphasises the fact that it is more about who the leader is, what his purpose is than the structures the leader implement.

Andrew Sillitoe gave five rules that he uses to create a high-performance culture. In addition to what Anderton said, he shifts the focus to the team and not to the leader. The five rules are:

  1. Shape the story. A team needs their own story, not one that the leader or someone else forces down onto them. This links with Maxwell’s levels of commitment. The level of commitment is deeper if it is based on a more personal approach.
  2. Ask don’t tell. To create a high performing culture as a leader you have to lead and not manage people and ask them what they want, what is important to them, and what their purpose is. If you tell others what to do it can create resistance. Remember you are working with human beings not robot.
  3. Create leaders as a leader. It is not about getting followers because it is good for the ego but not for business and performance. Because by creating leaders within the team there are people that influence change.
  4. Embrace failure. To embrace and accept failure you move forward. The fear of failure prevents the team to perform at the best level.
  5. Hold each other accountable. If you can do this it creates a culture of trust within the team because members do what they said they would do. If you engage people and help them find their purpose it means they are more productive, they will be more engaged, and that means for the business more profitability.

We need to remember what leadership is all about, or rather who it is all about.

What to do?

As a leader, it advisable and highly beneficial to have a vision for yourself as well as for the company, a purpose that drives what you do. However, when your team is unaware of the vision, goals and objectives you live by, work and tasks will still be completed, but the goal might not be achieved. By sharing and making sure that everyone involved knows and understands the goals brings the team together and performing towards an objective.

Ott Jogi explains that as a leader you should create an environment where everyone can meet their potential. Thus, for your team members to be happy and productive you should play to their strengths. People feel more confident when they are doing things, they know they are good at.

A crucial thing to remember as a leader is that you are working with people, who are emotional beings. So, motivation and engagement are essential if you want to engage the employee as a whole.

A strategy that links to the previous one in terms of emotions, is to encourage recognition. People want to feel appreciated. When individuals and team members work hard to achieve great results you as a leader should encourage celebration and recognition because what gets rewarded gets repeated. This strategy also builds the foundation of gratitude and recognition culture. It is highly likely that your team members will pick up the culture of gratification and display it towards each other.

As a leader, you have experienced the feeling of being trusted with responsibility and experienced a sense of self-worth. It is time to spread that experience and feeling of self-worth to members of your team. In hindsight, a leader cannot do everything that needs to be done. Start delegating to your team and empower them with responsibilities. Micromanaging people leads to them feeling unempowered, ruins their confidence, decreases performance and frustrate them.

Gregory Favre collected a list of leadership behaviours during a workshop at the Asian American Journalist Association convention. Some of the behaviours include;

  • communicating consistently including listening actively,
  • create a foundation of fairness and openness,
  • lead by example,
  • exercise moral courage,
  • be patient and show discipline,
  • act as a problem solver and take part in the solution,
  • be willing to delegate.

CMOE explains that having the right tools in your toolbox can assist you as a leader in accomplishing objectives. The tools they recommend are;

  • Strategic Thinking. Thinking strategically enables you to plan, as well as identify how you can respond to situations. Think of it as a chess player, thinking ahead about the moves he or she needs to make to win the match.
  • Decision Making. Making decisions is inevitable but as a leader, your decisions do not only impact you alone but your team and even the organisation.
  • Conflict Resolution. Resolving conflict is a skill that can be learned, developed, and refined. Attending workshops that can improve conflict resolution skills will be highly beneficial for leaders since no relationship comes without conflict.
  • Delegation. This can improve efficiency and improve team members’ development. By delegating your responsibilities as a leader can allow you to complete other critical tasks and it allows your team to grow.
  • Cultivate Innovation. People believe that innovation happens when sitting around and waiting for it to happen. But in reality, it doesn’t. Innovation is a process which involves brainstorming, collaboration, trial and, error.

In summary, leadership is not about you, and it is about you. The recommended strategies, processes and tools can help you as a leader create a high performing team that delivers on agreed standards. But it comes down to knowing yourself and staying true to what you believe in. That creates level five commitment amongst team members.

Sources:

Lao Tzu. BrainyQuote. (n,d). A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves. Retrieved from https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/lao_tzu_121709.

Peter Anderton. (2016). Great leadership comes down to only two rules. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDsMlmfLjd4.

John C. Maxwell. (2013). 3 Things Level 5 Leaders Do. Retrieved from https://www.johnmaxwell.com/blog/3-things-highest-level-leaders-do/

Andrew Sillitoe. (2015). How to create a high performance culture. Retrieved form https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BAdeFHlhKi4

CRESTCOM. (2016). Leadership strategies that influence, engage and encourage excellent performance. Retrieved from https://crestcomleadership.com/2016/12/01/5-leadership-strategies-to-improve-performance-in-your-company/

Ott Jogi. (n,d). 7 Step Guide to Deliver Results. Retrieved from https://blog.weekdone.com/7-step-guide-for-a-leader-to-deliver-results-as-a-team-infographic/.

Impraise Blog. (n,d). Micromanagement: The Employee Engagement Killer. Retrieved from https://blog.impraise.com/360-feedback/micromanagement-the-engagement-killer.

Poynter. (2003). How should a leader behave? Retrieved from https://www.poynter.org/reporting-editing/2003/how-should-a-leader-behave/.

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