Being a great leader...where to start?

BeanStalk Learning Ltd

There is an abundance of reading about how to be a great leader, all with valid theories and suggestions, but it would take a lifetime to read them all.

For me, there are two fundamental behaviours without which you will struggle as a leader:

(1) Self-awareness and (2) Trust

According to Daniel Goleman, self awareness forms part of your emotional intelligence, along with self management, social awareness and relationship management.

I was following a comment trail on LinkedIn last week, which disputed the validity of emotional intelligence as a skill you can develop, but if you delve into Goleman's definition, I think you can.

Building self awareness means recognising your emotions and the behaviour they cause and understanding the impact of that on those around you.

Knowing your triggers will help you understand your own strengths and limits which for a leader is imperative.

By knowing your own limitations, you can free your mind to concentrate on your strengths allowing those around you to fill in the gaps.

We don't know all the answers and we don't ever need to - there are plenty of others who will.

Building our own self awareness makes us more adaptable and flexible in our approach with people in different situations.

This means you can build on the relationships you have with your team, your peers and your customers...and that brings me to trust.

A good leader needs to be able to trust others and be trusted to build great relationships. Stephen Covey (Jnr), talks about "working at the speed of trust".

He argues there is nothing more important for a business to be successful because it provides the basis for the agility and flexibility required in today's world of business.

Let me give you an example:

Many years ago when I started my career in the HR arena, I worked with a HR Director who I, and everyone else, trusted implicitly.

He made it easy for us to work...if we needed to make changes because something wasn't working, it was our decision.

If we needed his help in making the decision, he gave his help .

He was considered credible and reliable by everyone, within the function and beyond. And he knew us and our strengths well.

I was a new openings trainer back in those days with a million people far more important than me!

So, how delighted was I when our HR Director visited me shortly after my daughter was born just for a chat and a cup of tea!

We, as a team, would have moved heaven and earth to do the right thing by him, our productivity was at it's maximum.

But then he left and a new HR Director was appointed.

They could not have been more different in their approach to work. Within six months, she had restructured and made half the team redundant; decisions appeared to be made in the moment as frequently they was reversed or changed some days later and no-one in the team knew whether they were coming or going!

Activity and delivery slowed down because we were unsure of what to do. Suddenly, we felt vulnerable.

It felt like she didn't trust us and trusting her became increasingly difficult. So, I resigned.

If as a leader you can't build credibility (and yes, sometimes that means saying "I don't know"), you can't deliver on your promises and if you don't know (or care about), the people working with and for you, building relationships becomes almost impossible.

Be inspired to know who you are and share with others.

Not being aware of the impact you have on others is a limitation, being vulnerable and trusting is not.