Leadership is never an easy task, and while we’d all like to be Cristiano Ronaldo leading our national football team to glory on a world stage, often it’s more like Captain Scott leading a doomed expedition to the South Pole – especially when the shifting economic landscape makes it impossible to see more than a few steps ahead. So here are a few tips for tightening those leadership skills…
1. Get your hands dirty. The best way to gain a fresh perspective on your organisation, and its challenges, is to get yourself to the coalface and do what your team is doing. You’ll quickly feel whether it’s really heading where it should be – and what needs to change. Those lessons will land much better if you can show your team how to improve things, rather than delegating from on high. And they’ll respect you for it too.
2. Embody the vision. It’s hard to imagine a more revered leader than Apple’s Steve Jobs, who advised budding leaders to ‘be a yardstick of quality’. Jobs’s point was that many people weren’t used to working in places that expected the level of excellence that Apple did. So he had to embody that himself. By doing so he was able to keep his team fixed on their goal, and motivated to hit it.
3. Get the most out of your team. No one can do everything alone, so make sure you listen to people – especially if you’ve followed the old adage of surrounding yourself with people who are better than you in the first place. Then it should be more about facilitating them than leading. As astronaut Chris Hadfield wrote: ‘leadership is about laying the groundwork for others' success, and then standing back and letting them shine’.
4. Go out and teach. There’s no better way to make you re-examine what you know, and highlight what you don’t, than by passing on your knowledge and expertise to those who can benefit from it. That could be sharing your earlier work with a struggling team member, giving internal training, or even going outside the company: lecturing at universities or mentoring in your community. New environments can do a lot to freshen up thinking.
5. Go out and learn. One of the key issues with training courses is whether you’ll really remember and apply those lessons when you get back to the office. HotHouse is a creative leadership program launched by and hosted at the jaw-dropping Eden Project in Cornwall, described as the ‘8th wonder of the world’ and home to the largest rainforest in captivity. Drawing from the expertise of the project’s founder Sir Tim Smit, and other experts in natural leadership, this four-day fully residential course promises to ‘transform the way you approach and inhabit your workplace’.
Attendees meet like-minded individuals from a variety of sectors, ‘giving you access to a living network of collaborators, experiences and shared thinking.’ Our guess is that you’ll retain far more from immersing yourself with others in an epic location, with inspiring stories from session leaders and behind-the-scenes insights, than you would from a drab training room and a flip chart.