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Leaders continually learn to lead


Introduction to Leadership

The word "leadership" can recall a variety of images. For example:

A political leader, pursuing a passionate, personal cause (Not Brexit)!

An explorer, cutting a path through the jungle for the rest of his group to follow.

An executive, developing her company's strategy to beat the competition.

A captain of the England Rugby Squad, leading team to Semi Final win against the All Blacks (historically the best rugby nation in the world)


Leaders help themselves and others to do the right things. They have skills and qualities within that are innate to being able to challenge and realign direction of travel for an organisation, building an inspiring vision, and create something new. Leadership is about mapping out where you need to go to "win" as a team or an organization; and it is dynamic, exciting, and inspiring.

Yet, while leaders set the direction, they must also use management skills to guide their people to the right destination, in a smooth and efficient way.


Theory of leadership

Leadership is an attempt at influencing the activities of followers through the communication process and toward the attainment of some goal or goals.

Leadership is an influence process that enable managers to get their people to do willingly what must be done, do well what ought to be done. (Cribbin, J.J. ‘Leadership: strategies for organizational effectiveness’)

Leadership is defined as the process of influencing the activities of an organized group toward goal achievement.(Rauch & Behling.)

Leadership is discovering the company's destiny and having the courage to follow it. (JoeJaworski - Organizational Learning Center at MIT.).

Leadership is interpersonal influence, exercised in a situation, and directed, through the communication process, toward the attainment of a specified goal or goals. ( Tannenbaum,Weschler & Massarik)


Leading to learn vs Appraising to failure

Effectively leading and conducting open dialogue about performance and why it’s important to the business success are the epitome of good leadership. Leaders who discuss performance 1-2-1 and in teams on a regular basis, drive a 50% less turnover of employees, and improves commitment ratings from employees for as much as 40%.

Performance management practice and transition delivery comes from a leader who not only has vision but has the added arsenal in the tool kit to recognise not least employees but what makes them good, and what motivates them to bring their ‘A game’ to an employer.

Those who conduct appraisals on an annual basis are continuing with an old mindset, which will not bring about new results. Once a year setting a target* is too infrequent for modern business and for the real world, and conversations about year end targets are considered even less valuable. Often when a leader gains a status of title, there is a powershift in their mindset, and this can unfortunately have a negative impact on such appraisals or performance reviews, due to the ‘us and them’ mentality. *Target being tangible and visible.


To get the most out of every player in your team you need to understand them, that means asking them questions, actively listening, engaging with them, and know what motivates them, what are their skills vs what their passions are. Perhaps it may help if you start simple like, what do they understand to be their purpose within the business, and why they are doing this particular role? From here focus on their aims, which is more abstract that a target, but that is an enabler for the employee to have clearer objectives* to help them reach their own professional goals, as well as company ones? *Objectives being tangible, definite and time framed.


You always want to attempt to align these two things. As a leader you need to be able to inspire others, and to encourage others, making sure that every conversation you engage in, you take the opportunity to breathe life into people (not suck it out).


The journey of your life

Leadership is a journey and not a destination, its about scrapping the process of management hierarchy and focusing more on coaching and mentoring staff to reach their potential both individually and as a team, this way you make your workforce more agile and maintain their focus.


Leaders must be able to articulate and convince organisational heads in senior positions to alter the approach to goals and achievements, by being more inclusive to every level of input, and good leaders will be able to influence the reason why this must be so.

While McDonald and Janes 1968 three circles model focuses on task needs, maintenance needs and individual needs in order to become an improved and impacting leader, focusing on the interactions of need, below we focus on another three varying types and learning which one is more appropriate for modern times, Leading, Traditional, Transitional.


· Leading approach – setting clearly defined quarterly goals and breaking these down more frequently to ensure they are monitored and revised accordingly. Giving opportunity for engagement of individuals and teams required across all levels to ensure understanding, input and delivery.

· Traditional approach – setting annual targets, with little discussion of goals beyond individual employed or their managers, and always appear linked to performance management.

· Transitional approach – when an organisation starts to set targets bi-annually or even quarterly, this is often in a top down hierarchical manner, and are rarely reviewed and revised during the periods. Sometimes managers and their teams are encouraged to discuss these goals, but often there is lacking transparency as a priority.


These days, we are all talking about Artificial Intelligence (AI) – the science of creating thinking machines. Well good leadership takes a slightly different type of AI – Ancient Intelligence. So much of what we know now has its roots in ancient history. The widespread fascination with leadership may be because of the impact that leadership has on everyone's life. Stories of heroic leadership go back thousands of years: Moses delivering thousands of Hebrews from Egypt or Alexander the Great building a great empire. Certain leaders can inspire and mobilise so many people. In recent decades, many researchers have undertaken a systematic and scientific study of leadership.


Copying isn’t so bad

In order to focus on people before performance a leader must continue to demonstrate they are willing to learn from others. How did you learn when you were small? By copying. It is how we all learn as children…But then we attend school and are taught not to copy, we feel that it is wrong to do what someone else is doing. New school rules: leadership is about copying, from people in your team, from people outside your organisation or even your industry, this is innovative, and allows you to be efficient in gaining skills from those who tested it prior to you.

“Leaders are more powerful role models when they learn than when they teach.” - Rosabeth Moss Kantor


Creating and curating cultures

It is equally as important to understanding your people and your performance targets, is to understand the culture (both workplace and peoples outside interests).


The approach of understanding and relishing a diverse workforce will prove most beneficial in creating open cultures, and when the culture is transparent, it is more agile to transition and change. In order to deliver strongly in this area it is important for any leader to fully understand the model of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, covering: Safety, psychology, social, esteem and self-actualisation elements of understanding and helping to meet people's need, this is especially important in relation to motivation, this is because such needs as those defined above are deemed inner needs, and a greater response and level of respect is given to one who takes the time to tap into these.


Self awareness

This is because as we grow, our internal culture shifts, we become more self-conscious, hierarchies form and insecurities are created. We have been told, ‘don’t show off,’ or heard those around us define us – ‘he’s just shy’, ‘she’s a bit of a drama queen’ – or we have been placed in circumstances which cause us to question ourselves. The result, by default, is that we become less good at being ourselves. The most important job as a leader is to be as good at being you, stay authentic., because the more you are aware of yourself, the more improved your skills for becoming more aware of others, which helps you to alter to each situation within the workplace.

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