It often sounds very exciting, to be a leader of people, but, the truth is, in my experience, it is hard work. The more people you lead, the more you have on your plate. Of course, people working together to make things happen is important, and when magic is the result then that is great, but nurturing and growing people is no walk in the park. Yes, it can be very rewarding, in every sense, but it can also be hard on the soul. None of us are perfect and we all make mistakes, and sometimes people let us down, and sometimes we let others down too. To be a leader requires sensitivity, strength and compassion. It requires character. Values are the core to leadership. And again, all underpinned by hard work.
Movies and pop culture like this word “boss”. We don’t often hear the word “leader”. I think much of the world is conditioned like this but I am not a fan of the “boss” word. It sounds like something that belongs to a dictator. Perhaps in the middle ages this was all fine and dandy, but in this day and age I think that word needs less attention, as well as the ideas that it brings with it. People have rights, and also, they have our trust. As a leader, your job is to grow future leaders, and not to create endless followers.
I found this text many years ago – it continues to guide me :
Bosses and leaders
The boss drives his men;
The leader inspires them;
The boss depends on authority;
The leader depends on good will;
The boss says “I”;
The leader says “We”;
The boss shows who is wrong;
The leader shows what is wrong;
The boss knows how it is done;
The leader knows how to do it;
The boss demands respect;
The leader commands respect.
Leading by example
I work hard. I come from a hard working family. We wake up early and go to bed late. I don’t know if it is good or bad, but I do know that there is no better form of leadership then to set the pace. Leading by example is honest. People respect hard work, and sincerity. If you simply bark orders from a distance then you will stimulate a lot of cynicism, in my view.
Your behaviour is fundamental. Be professional. Say what you mean, and mean what you say, and never say it in a mean way.
Leadership is not about strategy as much as it is about character. Sometimes you will be required to make hard decisions. It is one thing to be tough minded, but never be hard hearted. And never forget, that leadership is not a popularity contest.
Personality opens doors but character keeps them open. Keep your promises. Walk your talk.
Leadership is about being responsible for other people. You can’t fake this – you need to care. It is about having respect for all people. It is about team work, and it is about growing people.
You lead people and you manage things. People are not things. Your ultimate objective is to develop future leaders. A parent, for example, needs to take their kids from a dependent to an independent state, so that they are equipped to be parents themselves one day.
Always try keep an open door. Well, at least, slightly ajar. Don’t be full of shit.
Don’t ever humiliate people. Just don’t. Never scream or reprimand people in front of others. And never lose your cool.
The people who care about you and trust you don’t mind if you make mistakes - it is what you do next that matters. Yes, we all make mistakes, leaders especially. Believe in yourself. Be yourself. Respect others.
A good leader will challenge others – it is important for growth. But, do so with sensitivity. Don’t be a maniac. Ok.
Don't ever confuse popularity with respect.
Strategy is core to any business. But it is not only a leader’s job to come up with the strategy. Sure, yes, they can, but it is more about driving strategy forward and giving the business a sense of direction. Strategy can in fact come from anyone, including my mother. A leader’s job, in my view, is to identify when the strategy is sound and solid and then move it forward.
Alignment is the key to all good leadership. Getting people on the same page is what it is all about. When people are aligned they can focus, and that is when magic happens.
Finding good people is never easy. A leader needs to always be on the look-out. It has been said that a good leader always surrounds themselves with people that are smarter than they are. Be humble. Other people know stuff we don’t.
Making people feel comfortable to be themselves – that is another fundamental. When people are honest and open you will get to see who is good more easily. Breaking some ice opens up lots of possibilities. Get people involved. Engage. Encourage people to speak.
Good people are important to any business. A leader needs to make good people happen.
Work yourself out of a job. Like a parent does. If you have done that, you have been a true leader. To grow others, and to empower them – these are the fundamentals. A leader’s role is about looking after people. Do this right, and one day they may look after you too.