The Crucial Practice for Leaders
There is no one formula for being a successful leader. Many would argue that great leadership is situational. What is seen as great leadership traits for one situation, may not be so great for another. This is very true where you have an immature team which isn’t quite yet developed. In the initial stages, a leader may need to be more directional than they would otherwise be. Leading teams with different maturity levels are explored in the Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership Model. An important, but not the crucial practice for leaders.
A value-based leadership style can seem a significant factor. The leader demonstrates to employees and customers who they are dealing with. Many would agree openness, honesty, humility and inclusivity are universal values. They are not always a priority for businesses. A commercially savvy entrepreneur who cuts corners and makes hard decisions easily can be applauded by some and condemned by others.
The single crucial practice
The crucial practice all leaders can and should be good at is awareness. It is one thing making a decision to axe the jobs of 100 people, and having an attitude of “well that’s just business”. It is miles away from the leader who agonises over the need to make such a decision, conscious and aware of the impact it is going to have on the livelihood of all of those people.
That’s not to say that a self-aware, empathetic leader doesn’t make those decisions. But they do so with care, kindness and understanding. They will have no doubt that such a decision is a last but necessary resort. Leaders who are aware will support, listen to and respect the fears and anxieties of the people affected.
We all have our blind spots, I would challenge anyone who believes they haven’t. Although making the decision to lead a life of awareness can be a challenging one, it is also can be extremely revealing and rewarding.
Learning from mistakes
In my experience, leaders who are willing to continually learn and develop their own self-awareness may not be perfect, or paragons of virtue. What they do though is different from leaders who don’t practice self-awareness, in that they learn from their mistakes, and then do something different next time. They take time out to evaluate how they are doing, and how they impact others. Most importantly they are able to observe themselves objectively in order to self-appraise.
In the process of leading a team or an organisation, they willingly:
- Take feedback from their people and find out what is going wrong as well as what is going right.
- Are prepared to learn from others and they admire qualities about other people who can teach them something.
- Question their own mindsets, and are always open to learning how to be more authentically positive and to achieve great outcomes for themselves and others.
- Understand their own power to affect the intentions, mindsets and beliefs of others and they use that power wisely and with integrity.
- Understand that leading a team is not a single-minded activity, but one where they must be open to understanding others, so as to get them onboard and engaged in what they are trying to achieve.
- Work out exactly who they want to be working with them and for them. They have a good insight into themselves and how they tick and, therefore, have the same understanding of others
- Commit to the continuous development of their business and people. They understand that life is a learning experience, and it’s not just about skills and knowledge, but also about self- understanding. Not just for themselves, but for others too.