Effective leaders are often involved in aligning the beliefs and values of their employees with the overall goals and vision of the organisation. This is something that coaches and mentors can often support them to do, along with motivating through inspiration, and by helping them to build their teams based on mutual respect. Gone are the days when leaders led from the top to enhance their leadership ego; today companies tend to prefer a much flatter structure where trust and responsibility are shared among leadership teams.
In my opinion leaders need to listen at a deeper level and nurture the skills and expertise of their staff. A crucial element of losing the leadership ego is to understand that others may have a different learning style and way of doing tasks and projects. Their way of ‘being’ in the world may differ and may in fact be more effective.
To illustrate the above I can share an experience that taught me a great deal about how to lose the leadership ego:
In 2000 I was the owner/director of a medium sized language school in Brighton. I had run this school for twelve years and had been quite successful. I led a team of five full time teaching staff and 4 part-time admin and marketing staff. One of my team was a very astute and capable woman who did things entirely differently to me. In fact her style was often more effective than mine in the role she held as Director of Studies. I found myself thinking that I knew best and that this was, after all, my own school. How wrong I was. My own coach was very effective in helping me to lose my leadership ego. It was only when I engaged my director of studies in a one to one discussion and really listened, that I discovered not only was she highly effective, she also had other ideas that contributed a great deal to the business. In fact, she subsequently became so valuable I was able to take a holiday and leave the school in her capable hands!
If we allow our egos to get in the way of effective leadership, then we cannot expect to grow others and tap into their knowledge and expertise. Learning about leadership is all very well but in order to ‘be’ a true leader we need to understand and demonstrate those behaviours. This is where I believe coaching plays such a valuable part in enhancing leadership behaviours.
Part of the leadership role is also being able to self-manage so you are flexible, optimistic and reliable. These are qualities that when nurtured make an effective leader approachable, motivational and highly regarded.
A high level of social awareness, such as being able to put yourself in others shoes and identifying their needs, is key to understanding the employee’s background and circumstances. As a leader you need to adapt your behaviours to allow employees to air their views and be able to take ownership and responsibility for tasks and solutions. This also includes the ability to see people’s potential and collaborate with them as equals in developing this ability to self-manage. In doing so you will be better able to focus on your own role and not be tempted to micro manage. Your staff will learn and grow under your guidance as a role model and develop their own emotional intelligence creating a strong team and increased social awareness.
In the fast paced technological world of today we do not listen or take the time to think things through. In her wonderful book “Time to Think” Nancy Kline states “The quality of our listening will determine the quality of their thinking.” Listening to others and really hearing what they say with no judgement or assumptions, can enable them to reach a clarity of thought that can really enhance their motivation and engagement. Conversations, particularly one to one, are at their most powerful when there is mutual respect and when they invite both parties to challenge their own assumptions. The most exciting conversations are on an edge—when disagreements and ideas are discussed honestly and openly. When leaders work on the edge of the unknown, others are drawn in, and they are more likely find it authentic.
So how do leaders create real, authentic conversations that are assumption free and invite edgy dialogue? In short how do they begin loosing the leadership ego?
By being open and receptive, creating conditions for effective conversations by listening for what is important to their teams and teasing out ideas and suggestions. This then enables each individual to grow and increases confidence. After all, when employees are motivated, confident and fully engaged they make better decisions which leads to greater productivity and bottom line results.