Developing your leadership style...or alternatively, why I hate the F word!

Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce

This blog post has been produced for the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce as part of the 2018 Growth Through People campaign.

Growth Through People is the Chamber’s annual campaign aiming to help local firms boost productivity and grow through improved leadership and people management skills. This involves 20 free events, workshops and training sessions along with thought leadership blog content such as this.

Thanks to our Official Partner and Sponsors – The West Midlands Combined Authority, Aston University, South and City College Birmingham and Curium Solutions - all events are free to attend. Interested readers can find out more here.

Please excuse me for my language, the ‘F-word’ is important to me, let me explain why…

Like all leaders I’ve been through my personal journey, developing my style along the way.  I’ve been lucky in having great bosses, great people developers and people that just love personality tests, all of whom have helped along the way.  It’s a privilege to share a bit of my learning in this blog, as part of the Growth through People week at the Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, I hope you find it useful. 

In developing our own leadership style, we need to decide who we want to be and how we want to be perceived. Decide actively, don’t just fall into it, think about your personal brand, about strengths and the less strong bits (don’t ignore them, unfortunately they won’t go away).

From knowing yourself and how you want to lead, what’s your mantra?  The phrase or feeling that will bring you back to your leadership basics reliably every time you need them - inconsistency is a killer, people need to know what to expect from you, and you need to deliver it consistently.

Personally, I always want whatever I’m involved with to be successful, I want to grow, expand, learn, develop.  I want to lead, to have fun, to work with people in a positive environment, all driving together to the same challenging goals. Otherwise you’re wasting time and energy on people reinventing, on following different paths that won’t get you to your end goal, that precious above and beyond energy will be wasted on redirecting, not on achieving.  In short, build, use and enjoy a culture of enthusiastic chasing of your dream.

For me, that leadership style is personified by one phrase, “why I hate the F-word”

Fault – the biggest barrier to a great culture……

The F-word is so destructive.  If you can lead without it, your leadership will naturally be more open, trusting, interested and inquisitive.  That will bring your people with you, and that’s what you need for success.  Without the F-word, you can build a learning culture, everyone open minded, not judgmental or protective.  Setting your dream clearly, make it a big dream, something everyone can believe in.  Along the way asking open, inquisitive questions about how people will make their contribution (will not can, it’s not an option), and being constructive through all of the ups and downs on your journey.

I know it works. My background at Toyota, the founders of lean methodology, evidence of the power of common purpose. Translating that to Financial Services, implementing real change, not just in cost management, where lean is legend, but in income generation and in transformation, anything where the ideal is still to be chased.  

2 bits of technique that you might find useful each day. Firstly, to give trust, truly delegating. GROW is a good place to start from (though they forgot to add a T on the end, for Thank-you, from the leader). It’ll work to its max power if you have the base trust that comes from a learning culture style.  So, the second is to hone your open questioning problem solving style.

As leaders, we must build this way of thinking in.  It’s how we talk to each other all the time.  It’s how we welcome people in to present to us, how we engage our people in the discussion and decision, and how we communicate our conclusion. We flow through our leaders, aiming for their genuine understanding and engagement.  After all, the surveys all conclude that your line manager is the one that influences you most, so the learning culture must be upheld throughout the leadership team, open giving and receiving of information, a two way flow that it the lifeblood of a successful business.

That two way is essential, without listening, without being genuinely interested in what people have to say, we will imprint our preconceptions onto people, be judge and jury, inevitably leading to allocation of fault.

I hate fault because it crushes the desire to improve due to fear of failure.  It destroys learning culture, how can it not, there can be no trust in such an environment.  

What we want is this...                           

Not this...

The Growth through People week is a great opportunity to learn more, get some great tips for practicing, meet some fab leaders from around the region. 

There will also be content on Responsible Leadership.  Take the opportunity if you can to build it into your natural way of operating.  Socially responsible actions as part of your strategy are a tremendous benefit to engagement generally, it’s a great builder of trust and respect, a fab way of developing people and you can make a real difference.  Win win!

In summary: 

  • Actively decide what kind of leader you want to be
  • What’s your mantra?  
  • Engage for common sense of purpose
  • Build in fun and social responsibility
  • Deliver leadership consistently
  • Shoot for the stars!

And, please, for me, don’t use the F-word.

If you’d like to debate with me on leadership, I’ll be at the Future Faces event on Wednesday April 11. 

Liz McKenzie
Chamber board member