GTP21: Leadership as a verb

Inspired Partners

This blog post has been produced for the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce as part of the 2021 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. In 2021 this involves 8 free online workshops taking place throughout March, and a virtual Growth Through People conference on 30th March. In addition, throughout the campaign the Chambers will be publishing thought leadership podcasts, videos and blog content such as this.

Thanks to our Headline Sponsors – Aston University, BMet College and the University of Birmingham’s Work Inclusivity Research Centre - all workshops are free to attend. Interested readers can find out more and register to attend Growth Through People workshops here, and the Growth Through People conference here.

Where do we normally look for leadership in an organisation? We look to those in power, those individuals who occupy senior organisational positions and this “has probably damaged our capacity to understand leadership more than anything else.” Goffee and Jones 2006

We often assume that the people at the top of an organisation are the leaders. Is it realistic to expect them to have all the answers just because they hold positions of authority? It’s easy to blame those above us when things don’t go to plan rather than taking some personal responsibility.

Leadership is essentially the power to use our influence to make a difference. We all have personal ‘power’. We can use our personality, talents and skills. How and for what purpose is our personal choice. A common assumption is that leadership flows ‘downhill’. It may be easier to influence action with authority or power, but true leadership can be present anywhere in an organisation.

When times are challenging the rules are less clear which makes decision-making more complex, but the basic premise remains the same. Leaders can concentrate on what they know, what’s important, and having a vision that helps people to focus during uncertain times. Changing times creates an environment that requires people to take more chances and learn quickly and leaders need to accept, yet support, mistakes to enable individuals and teams to perform. In short, they need to be both creative and agile.

Interpersonal relationships are built on trust and this is even more important when people are feeling vulnerable. The cadence of work is being impacted by the current situation, and we don’t need a new type of leadership, but maybe now is the time for leaders to lead with a new understanding.  Those leaders who embrace new concepts and take the opportunity to transform themselves will shine.

Even before the pandemic, few managers had access to formal leadership development programmes. Proactive leaders may read books and articles or watch popular TED talks. For many though, leadership development is a process of trial and error, an iterative cycle of experimentation. Individuals are often expected to just ‘know’ how to be a leader.

But how many leaders miss the opportunity to learn from their experiences because they don’t notice how their behaviour impacts others around them. Reflective learning relies on taking time to stop and make sense of what is happening. Reflecting on our experiences encourages insight and enables us to take control of our learning and our own growth.

With many face-to-face leadership development activities on hold, virtual training and coaching have both emerged as a highly effective, personalised learning and development tools.  But if you can’t access these then take time to reflect on your role as a leader, what you need to concentrate on, and how you can learn and grow as a leader.

With thanks to Any Bolt and Mike King for their input to this blog.

Sally Palethorpe
Managing Partner
Inspired Partners