5 Home Truths on Leadership

It doesn't matter if you are the head of a big corporation or the leader of a small team, there are some things that really matter. This short article exposes 5 'home truths' of leadership which if you get right will most certainly help your leadership credibility and effectiveness with your team, but get them wrong at your peril! 

Truth 1 - YES people ARE a problem

Truth 2 - Your courage matters

Truth 3 - YES you are biased

Truth 4 -  You are ALWAYS a role model

Truth 5 - Your vision is their reality

Now read on to find out why these are so important!!

Truth 1 - YES people ARE a problem

Sometimes this feels like the elephant in the room but it is true, now I have said it we can talk about it. Other people are creative, individual, extraordinary, fascinating, infuriating, maddening and altogether different to you as a leader. You know this, so get over it! Leadership is not about trying to change others into your mould; it is about bending with the wind and learning to make the most of the uniqueness of everyone in your team. With each addition or subtraction from your team the group dynamic will change either slightly or significantly, learn to work with this and to help smooth the process. The leaders mantra should be 'they are different to me - thank goodness!!' for it is this variety that will bring your strength and success as a leader.

Truth 2 - Your courage matters

So this does not mean you immediately need to go out and slay dragons and save the world in your Bruce Willis vest. No this is about displaying insights of courage to your team in small but meaningful ways. Ask other leaders the questions your team want the answers to at open forum discussions, address poor performance especially if the person is known for being difficult, be prepared to challenge decisions that make no sense, be prepared to own up to mistakes (and own those your team make), take difficult decisions and be prepared to justify why. On this point, as leaders we sometimes are expected to take decisions even if we do not feel we have all the information we need. Often no decision is worse than taking a wrong one, as a leader you are paid to have the courage to use your expertise and judgement and yes - instinct, and live with the outcome!

Truth 3 - YES you are biased

We all have our preferences and biases, some we are conscious of and others we are less conscious of or even totally unaware of.  We may be drawn to people with similar interests or those with quirky humour, broad outlooks, animal lovers, techies, arty folk, geeky types, talented dudes, pretty faces, handsome faces, tall, short, round, boyish, impish, cheeky, curious, optimistic and so on, you get the idea. This is natural and often we are aware of it. However, in times of stress, and leadership is stressful, you may also be drawn to those who overtly seem to be going out of their way to help you, to offer you solutions, to fix the problems and be your saviour! Often this is good but sometimes the motives behind this are self-serving. Beware of ignoring input or ideas from others who seem negative to you or are less 'like you'. A true leader is open to ideas and solutions regardless of its source, if it is good, it is good. Don't allow yourself to be closed to an idea because the person providing it does not automatically fit on your preference list! Linked to this is being fair, your biases can affect others perception of your fairness. Use of overtime rota's, rotation of opportunities to work on new projects, fair and open competition for promotion and recruitment all send out the right messages.

Truth 4 -  You are ALWAYS a role model

Leaders don't get nights off. A trip to the pub after work or the Christmas Party is not an excuse to throw caution to the wind and get legless. You may have had a stressful time lately and one glass leads to another etc etc. But your team will remember everything you said and did and take it as a benchmark for their own behaviour. Also remember 'do as I say, not as I do' is rarely a good starting point at performance discussions. If you want your team to behave in a certain way, you need to role model that approach, if learning is important to you, you need to share your learning with others, help others to learn, show how learning is of value to you, not just talk about it. The get out of jail free card with role modelling is - you will get it wrong at some point so invoke the trump card of the role model and admit when you make mistakes!

Truth 5 - Your vision is their reality

When we want to know where we are heading we ask the person in the driving seat, which as the leader means you! A visionless leader is no leader. Your role is to excite, inspire, motivate and energise others to turn your vision (and that of the organisation) into a reality. So ask yourself, do you believe in the organisations vision? (if you don't you won't come across as authentic). Can you translate the vision into something meaningful for your team, what does the organisation's vision mean for learning, what does it mean for how learning is organised, delivered and prioritised? Why is this vision a fantastic vision (not just good), why should people be excited and challenged by it. You need to be able to speak of the vision in a way which shows your passion and belief that this is absolutely the right way to go! If you are truly not behind the vision then this is where Truth 2 comes into play - do you have the courage to challenge that vision with those above you and your peers? Consider Truth 3 - are you against the vision because you are biased in some way? Truth 4 may come into play, if the vision is not right for you can you still role model the right behaviours to encourage people to seek the positive and overcome the negative?

Finally, refer back to Truth 1 - People are a problem and YOU are one of the people, so manage yourself as your first leadership task! Good luck!