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Leadership Today

Author: Andrew Beveridge

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Weekly research-based tips and advice to tackle today's biggest leadership challenges, all in under ten minutes. Hosted by leadership development specialist and psychologist Andrew Beveridge. Go to for more information.
51 Episodes
Summary Delegation - it’s something that every successful leader needs to do in order to perform and progress, yet most leaders under-delegate. This week we explore ways of overcoming a fear of delegation. Transcript Hello and welcome to episode 45 of the Leadership Today Podcast where each week we tackle one of today’s biggest leadership challenges. This week we look at ways of overcoming a fear of delegation. Chances are that, like most leaders, you struggle with delegation. And this under-delegation has a significant impact on personal, team and organisational performance.  People don’t delegate enough for a range of reasons, but here are some typical ones: It will be faster to just do it myself - delegating takes too much time and is inefficient Performance will drop - the person I delegate it to just won’t do it as well as I could, so delegation is bad for quality I don’t trust people to get it done - delegation leads to unreliable results I don’t want to trouble people - delegating work to others is a hassle for them If any of those reasons or excuses for not delegating ring true for you then congratulations - you’ve found the level of job you will remain in for life.  And I’m saying that as someone who really struggled with delegation - there’s no judgement here! But the extent to which we delegate is the pace at which we progress.  However there is hope - becoming better at delegating just requires a shift in mindset and a few simple techniques.  First the shift in mindset. If you think delegation is just about getting things done, then the earlier reasons not to delegate make perfect sense. Yes - it could well be faster to do it yourself. Yes - you will probably do it better. Yes - if you don’t delegate you’re not dependent on anyone else that can let you down. And yes - your people won’t be hassled by additional work. But all of these reasons not to delegate are short term focused.  If we take a longer term view we see that delegation is actually about developing others which in turn increases the capacity of the organisation to deliver. Delegation is about individual and organisational growth.  That shift in thinking made all the difference for me. Suddenly the things that I used to hold on to were great opportunities for my team to stretch themselves and grow. Delegating helped them to progress, and it also helped me to progress. Shifting the question from “should I delegate?” to “should I develop others?” will make you much more willing to delegate.  So let’s say I’ve encouraged you to give delegation another try. A reasonable question is what to delegate. It’s important to delegate meaningful things that will challenge others - things for which they can take full accountability. In fact, a useful exercise is to think about if you had to delegate all of your work, how would you do it? How can you start preparing your team now to be able to take on even the more challenging parts of your role? I’m not suggesting you then delegate all of your role, but it may unlock some additional opportunities to delegate and develop others. When shouldn’t you delegate? You need to be careful delegating when there’s a combination of time pressure and lack of capability. When you don’t have time to develop and support the person, you’re setting yourself and them up for failure. If it’s genuinely urgent and important, then it’s typically best to do it yourself. But if everything is always urgent and important then that’s a pattern that you need to challenge.  So how should we delegate? Here are four principles to keep in mind:  Be clear about the purpose - why does this delegated responsibility matter in relation to the organisation, the individual and their development. Focus on the outcomes not the process - resist the temptation to tell them how to achieve results, but rather give them the end outcome that’s required. Be available to coach - let the individual know that you’re available to coach them through anything they are struggling with, and set aside time to do this. Build in update points - set some milestone points up at the start when you will check in with the person. This will help you to manage your anxiety levels around how the work is progressing without hovering around or inserting yourself in the process at unexpected points. Delegation is something that every successful leader needs to do in order to perform and progress. Give it another try this week and let me know how you go.
Summary Reflection is important in our development as leaders. In that spirit, this week we look at 10 things we've learned from year one of the Leadership Today podcast.    Transcript Hello and welcome to episode 44 of the Leadership Today Podcast where each week we tackle one of today’s biggest leadership challenges. This week is a little different as we look at 10 things we’ve learned from year one of the Leadership Today podcast.  It has been one year since we launched the Leadership Today podcast, and it has been a privilege to play a small part in the development of thousands of leaders. Across the year there have been some stand out lessons about leadership, and also things I’ve learned from producing a weekly leadership podcast. Here are ten leadership lessons from the back catalogue of 43 episodes that have stood out: The power of habits - so much of our effectiveness as leaders rests in non-urgent but important activities. Habits allow us to prioritise these activities. This could include routines around planning, reflection, exercise and connections with others. None of these things are ever urgent, so building habits is a great way to ensure they get done. Mindset matters - taking on a positive growth mindset helps us to make better decisions, to stretch ourselves into new areas, and to develop our capability. Leaders can’t motivate anyone directly, but they can construct motivating environments - our key role as leaders is to set up and maintain the conditions for success. Great leaders regularly share the vision and connect it to the things people care about - this requires us to formulate a clear picture of the future and to be interested enough in our people to see how it links to what motivates and interests them. Influence and assertiveness are the vehicles to making a positive impact - you can have the best ideas in the world, but if no one knows or cares then our ideas are worthless. Fortunately we can all build our influence and assertiveness. Seek and provide feedback - people can’t grow and thrive in a feedback vacuum. Look for opportunities to provide feedback daily, focusing on the positive more than the corrective. And make sure you surround yourself with people who can provide feedback to shape your own development. Resilience is partly about people and partly about environments - as leaders we can create toxic work environments that undo even the most resilient person, or we can craft work environments that foster resilience. So many organisations are rolling out resilience programs in an attempt to toughen up their people, when the real problem rests in job design and organisational culture. Learning is both hard and motivating - anyone can become a great leader, but it takes effort and you never truly ‘arrive’. If we continue to stretch ourselves, there’s always moments of conscious incompetence and feeling clumsy before we become good at something. Take time to reflect - regularly review how you’re spending your time, and how that aligns with your values and what matters to you. Create a legacy - investing in the next wave of leaders makes you a far more effective leader. There is so much we can learn from our people - we don’t need to be the ones with all the answers, but we do need to demonstrate interest in and invest in our people. Hopefully there’s something amongst those lessons that has resonated with you. I encourage you to step out and try something new - don’t die wondering. Have a great week, and I look forward to sharing the next year with you as we continue to develop our leadership together.
Summary As leaders we need to make wise decisions in often complex and emotionally charged situations. This week we look at two techniques for making wiser decisions.   Transcript Hello and welcome to episode 43 of the Leadership Today Podcast where each week we tackle one of today’s biggest leadership challenges. This week we look at two techniques for making wiser decisions. As leaders we need to make decisions in often complex and emotionally charged situations. When it comes to making decisions, we are often encouraged to think of our brain like it’s a computer - that our consciousness is the sum total of electrical impulses rushing around circuits producing a stream of thoughts. However, our brains aren’t just thinking machines - they’re also emotion machines. What the computer analogy overlooks is the electro-chemical nature of the brain - that our thoughts and emotions aren’t just about electrical impulses, but also about the chemicals that interact with and moderate these systems. Our brain constantly influences, and is influenced by, our emotional state.  Our emotional state can help or hinder our decision making. When we’re in a positive emotional state we make better decisions and more readily identify the up side potential of situations. When we’re anxious or stressed we tend to focus on the negatives and become less creative and more risk averse. To make wiser decisions, it’s helpful to separate out the thoughts and feelings associated with the situation - to recognise the feelings, and act on the facts. One way to do this is to take a third person perspective. Research outlined by David Robson shows that thinking in the third person improves decision making. This approach increases our willingness to consider others’ perspectives, and also allows us to be more open to new ways of thinking about the situation. Let’s consider an example - that I have a difficult meeting coming up with one of my team members. Using this approach I switch from saying to myself “I have a challenging conversation coming up with John” to “Andrew has a challenging conversation coming up with John”. I can then work though a series of questions: How do I feel about the situation? What emotions am I experiencing? Perhaps I’m feeling frustrated with how John has approached an issue and am worried about how he will respond to the feedback I need to give him. Even the process of naming the emotions reduces some of their ‘charge’ and control over our thinking. What are the facts of the situation? What’s the data that others would also see and agree with? Before I have my meeting with John, it would be helpful to note down the facts as they relate to the conversation we’re about to have. What advice would I give to a friend in the same situation I’m facing? This helps us to consider the situation at a distance. With John this would allow me to view the situation at arm’s length rather than getting too caught up in the details and history. One other approach that can help you to act more wisely is to make a decision and then choose to run with it. Once you’ve considered all the factors, commit to your course of action for a set period of time without revisiting it. This approach can help to reduce the rumination and worry that leads us to make poor decisions. For example, research shows that people who check their stock market investments more frequently end up making worse investment decisions and earn lower returns than those who check less frequently. Those who check frequently tend to focus on the negatives and pull out of investments too quickly. It’s similar to people who are always thinking about getting a better job and keep checking for new opportunities - they tend to end up constantly worried and less satisfied with their current job than if they had committed to the job for a period of several months. This week I encourage you to look for opportunities to apply these two approaches - considering situations in the third person and then sticking to your decisions.   References
Summary Recognising that we don’t have all the answers makes us more effective as leaders - there is power in saying “I don’t know”.   Transcript Hello and welcome to episode 42 of the Leadership Today Podcast where each week we tackle one of today’s biggest leadership challenges. This week’s episode is the power of “I don’t know” - how, as leaders, recognising that we don’t have all the answers can make us more effective. Some leaders feel that, to be truly effective, they need to have all the answers. These leaders think saying “I don’t know” demonstrates weakness, inadequacy or being unqualified for the job. That was my experience when I first moved from being an individual contributor to leading others. As a management consultant, much of my value was in my knowledge, experience and expertise. So I initially carried that same mindset into leadership. And the research shows that’s exactly what many leaders do - they try to stay in the role of ‘expert’. However, needing to have all the answers places an extraordinary burden on an individual. And our people just don’t buy it - it comes off as an act and a facade that no one can maintain forever. Recent research shows that people who think they know it all routinely overestimate their cognitive capability - put simply, they aren’t as smart as they think they are. And this mindset has flow on impacts for the way they approach learning and new opportunities. Why would you try to learn more if you think you already know enough? Sure enough, the research shows that “know it alls” end up being less reflective and less curious than others. They stop learning and growing, limiting their future potential. Other leaders recognise that they can’t know everything - that there’s always more to learn. Researchers call this mindset “intellectual humility”. It’s like having a growth mindset towards knowledge. Research shows that people with intellectual humility benefit in six ways: They have greater general knowledge - those who can admit they don’t know actually know more than others Their knowledge is more accurate - they are right more often than other people They are more reflective - they take more time to think about their approach They enjoy mentally challenging tasks - stretching their minds further They are intellectually curious - they seek out new knowledge and experiences They are motivated to learn for the sake of new knowledge - they have wide interests, not just those needed for their job It pays to recognise that you can’t know everything and that there’s always more to learn. There’s a difference between saying “I don’t know” and not actually taking the time to find out. I once heard about a manager whose nickname was ’Mirrors’ - because whenever people asked him a question he’d always say “I’ll look into it”. But he didn’t follow through. This erodes trust - you need to close the loop. Three things to try this week: Recognise it’s okay not to know everything - it’s a change in mindset, so think about the mindset you’re currently bringing and challenge it Be curious to learn more - not just in your field of expertise - a while back I completed an online MasterClass by the comedian Steve Martin which taught me a lot about story telling and structuring communication - I didn’t complete the course to help with my work, but the applications to my work have been surprisingly beneficial Coach rather than tell - foster an inquisitive mindset in your team - help them to see that they don’t need to know everything either Just something quick before you go. The Leadership Today podcast has hit the Apple Podcast charts in a diverse range of countries including USA, Great Britain, Canada, India, Ireland, Brazil, Colombia, Netherlands, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Slovakia, Australia, and New Zealand. Whenever the podcast or an episode gets into the charts, it helps a whole bunch of new listeners who can benefit from the material to find the podcast. We don’t have advertising and genuinely see this podcast as a gift to help leaders achieve results through people - there isn’t a catch. So I would really appreciate it if you could take a couple of minutes to provide a rating or review - in Apple Podcasts would be great, but whatever platform you use. Plus it’s fantastic to hear your feedback on the show - you can contact me via the Leadership Today website. Thanks.   Reference Elizabeth J. Krumrei-Mancuso, Megan C. Haggard, Jordan P. LaBouff & Wade C. Rowatt (2019) Links between intellectual humility and acquiring knowledge,The Journal of Positive Psychology, DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2019.1579359
Summary This week we explore whether putting employees first ahead of customers and shareholders leads to better customer service and financial results.   Transcript Hello and welcome to episode 41 of the Leadership Today Podcast where each week we tackle one of today’s biggest leadership challenges. This week we explore whether putting employees first, that is ahead of customers and shareholders, actually produces better customer service and financial results. Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin, once famously said “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers.” It’s a sentiment that stands in stark contrast to “the customer is always right” and “shareholder value” formulas tracing back to the early 1900’s. During an interview with Inc, Branson continues “It should go without saying, if the person who works at your company is 100 percent proud of the brand and you give them the tools to do a good job and they are treated well, they're going to be happy… Effectively, in the end shareholders do well, the customers do better, and your staff remain happy”. This sounds like a nice management philosophy, particularly from an employee perspective - what employee wouldn’t want to be put first? But does the research back up this link between employee engagement, customer satisfaction and financial performance? Large scale research into the link between employee engagement, customer satisfaction and results is actually less common than you might think. A 2008 study by Maxham, Netemeyer and Lichtenstein covered over 1,600 retail employees, servicing over 57,000 customers across 306 stores. Their research found direct links between employee engagement, customer satisfaction and financial performance. The research highlighted three main findings: Conscientious employees who feel they are treated fairly and who identify with the organisation perform better in their jobs. Increased job performance, not just doing their job well, but going above and beyond for the customer, leads to higher customer evaluations. Customer evaluations around satisfaction, purchase intent, loyalty and word-of-mouth referrals, lead to higher customer spending and store sales growth. The researchers found that even a one point increase in customer evaluations was associated with customers spending over $12 more per transaction, a 15% increase. And as customer evaluations increased, transaction values and sales growth increased at an even greater rate - it wasn’t just a straight line relationship. Other analysis of multiple studies by Harter and Schmidt also supports these links. I think this research has four main implications for leaders: Hire well - hire conscientious people who love your organisation and want to go above and beyond. Treat employees well - fairness matters, give them great leaders to work for who also love the organisation and want to go above and beyond. Focus on systems and front line frustrations - as a customer it’s common to hear people apologising for their system or some clunky process. Ask your frontline teams about frustrations and remove them. A CEO of a major bank I worked for would call several bank tellers once a month to hear about their experiences on the front line, cutting through multiple layers. Look to other examples - research broader trends in customer service, including the interesting things others are doing outside your industry. If we take these steps, we will be well on our way to putting our people first, and delivering better results for customers and shareholders.   References Harter & Schmidt (2002) Business-Unit-Level Relationship Between Employee Satisfaction, Employee Engagement, and Business Outcomes: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology. Maxham, Netemeyer & Lichtenstein (2008) The Retail Value Chain: Linking Employee Perceptions to Employee Performance, Customer Evaluations, and Store Performance. Marketing Science.
Summary We have come to celebrate workaholics in our organisations - those people who always seem to be busy and putting in long hours. But is it possible for a person to be too engaged with their work? And does that lead to burnout and negative performance? Transcript Welcome to episode 40 of the Leadership Today Podcast where each week we tackle one of today’s biggest leadership challenges. This week we explore whether workaholics are bad for business. We have come to celebrate workaholics in our organisations - those people who always seem to be busy and putting in long hours. But is it possible for a person to be too engaged with their work? And does that lead to burnout and negative performance? Most models of employee engagement don't examine what actually drives people to work hard and contribute more to an organisation. This muddies the water between what researchers call workaholism and work engagement. As a result, employee engagement scores and measures of performance don't always align. Organisations with high employee engagement can sometimes be perplexed by relatively poor performance and the high incidence of burnout and other negative health outcomes amongst their people. One study by van Beek and her colleagues separated workaholism and work engagement into two distinct concepts. The researchers then looked at various combinations of the two including the impact on burnout. They defined workaholism as the tendency to work excessively hard and being obsessed with work - working compulsively. In contrast, they saw work engagement as a positive, fulfilling, work-related state of mind characterised by energy, dedication and becoming absorbed in your work. Their research showed that workaholism and work engagement both lead people to work harder and for longer hours. But it was the incidence of burnout amongst these groups that was most interesting.  Perhaps not surprisingly, being a workaholic increased the incidence of burnout over non-workaholics. The researchers linked this to work-home interference, poor social relationships, and high levels of job strain. In contrast, being engaged with work decreased the incidence of burnout versus the non-engaged. Interestingly, combining the two, that is being a work-engaged workaholic, decreased the level of burnout below that of your regular workaholic. It also reduced the incidence of burnout to below that of non-engaged non-workaholics. Being positively engaged with work appears to dampen the negative impact of being a workaholic when it comes to burnout.  This research suggests that improving work engagement will lessen the chance of burnout, even for the workaholics in our organisations. As leaders we can help workaholics in our teams to become aware of what motivates them, allowing them to identify greater meaning and purpose in their work. Understanding the difference between workaholism and employee engagement can do wonders to increasing the sustainability of performance in your organisation. Leaders can set up the conditions that encourage our people to become absorbed in their work versus becoming obsessed and compulsive about the work they complete. Reference Ilona van Beek, Toon W. Taris and Wilmar B. Schaufeli (2011) Workaholic and Work Engaged Employees: Dead Ringers or Worlds Apart? Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, Vol 16, No 4, 468-482.
Summary Trust is the essential currency of any organisation however, it seems to be in short supply these days. This week we look at four ways in which leaders can build trust.   Transcript Hello and welcome to episode 39 of the Leadership Today Podcast where each week we tackle one of today’s biggest leadership challenges. This week we look at four ways in which leaders can build trust. Trust is the essential currency of any organisation, however it seems to be in short supply these days. And trust has a huge impact on the effectiveness of teams and organisations. Without trust, three things happen: People hesitate - they become reluctant to act, and instead sit back, giving less than their best People make up stories - they try to make sense of what’s happening, and create stories, usually negative, that help to explain actions and events People leave - as the trust bank account dwindles, staff turnover increases So why is it that we trust some people more than others? Psychological research gives us some important insights. We trust people that we believe have good intentions for us, and who follow through on those intentions. First, let’s look at the good intentions part - we trust people who have good intentions for us. It’s important to note that it’s good intentions for us that matters - having good intentions for the organisation or even others is not enough. For a leader to build trust, they need to understand what matters to their people. You can’t build trust without uncovering the needs and interests of your people. Without that, people begin to question the leader’s motives and anticipate a negative impact of their actions. And, second, a leader you can trust is someone who follows through. They’re predictable and act in the way you expect. It’s not enough to just say the right things - trustworthy leaders follow through. I was a leader in a management consulting firm as we sailed towards the Global Financial Crisis. After several years of record growth, clients were suddenly delaying projects as they tried to cut back on spending. As a result we made a decision to decrease our costs by 10% which, in a consulting firm, equates to people. I laid out the facts to my team - that our revenue was falling and we had to reduce costs or start laying off staff. We wanted to keep people, and were exploring ways to achieve a cost saving while having the smallest impact on people possible. We worked together to propose everyone on the team voluntarily move to a nine day fortnight, meaning they would lose one day of work every two weeks and take a 10% pay cut. People signed up to this because they understood we had their best interests at heart - people wanted to keep their jobs, and this was one way of ensuring they could do that. We also found that people quite liked having a day off every two weeks, and that productivity even lifted despite fewer days being worked. And I moved to a nine day fortnight too, which was an important demonstration of my personal commitment to the change. Without trust, people might have seen the change as a money-grabbing exercise and been less engaged with their work and the organisation.  Here are four ways you can build trust as a leader: Uncover your team members’ interests and needs - in that way you can align your actions to their needs Share your intent - let people know what you’re trying to achieve, and how that aligns with their interests, being as open as you can Follow through - do what you said you would do Let them know you’ve followed through - don’t just leave them to join the dots, help them to see that you have followed through I believe any leader can build trust, but it needs to be authentic. People are finely tuned to when someone’s words don’t align with their actions. So keep in mind what it takes to be a trustworthy leader - it’s someone who demonstrates good intentions for others, and follows through on those intentions.
Summary As a leader, it’s likely that you have had to deliver bad news. It can be extremely difficult to do well. This week we look at practical ways to deliver negative news, and hopefully not become the messenger that gets shot in the process.   Transcript Hello and welcome to episode 38 of the Leadership Today Podcast where each week we tackle one of today’s biggest leadership challenges. This week we look at practical ways to deliver negative news, and hopefully not become the messenger that gets shot in the process.   No doubt you’ve heard the saying “Don’t shoot the messenger”. You might think it’s just another saying, but recent research suggests that is exactly what we do. Through a series of experiments the researchers at Harvard found that people end up not liking those who bear bad news, even when the person wasn’t the decision maker. And the impact is literally on ratings of the messenger - people don’t end up thinking any less of another representative standing next to the messenger while the bad news is shared. The effect of people disliking the messenger is particularly strong when the bad news isn’t expected or doesn’t make complete sense to the person receiving the news. The researchers saw such news as challenging our assumptions that the world is “just, predictable, and comprehensible”. In such circumstances we tend to question the motives of the messenger - what are they really trying to do, and what are they getting out of it?   Once the bad news is delivered, people may be less likely to then want to interact with the messenger, but the messenger is often the very person who is best placed to offer support for next steps.   As a leader, the most difficult news I had to deliver was making people redundant - people I knew well and liked that we had to let go for reasons entirely out of their control. We had about as good a process as we could around that, but the relationships with the individuals were permanently damaged. Just like the research suggested, they naturally thought less of me as the messenger. After all, who wants to keep in touch with the person who made them redundant?   But there are some steps we can take to help avoid being the messenger that gets shot: Be direct and clear - it can be tempting to try to soften the news, but just end up making it less clear. What are the fewest words you can use to distil the message down to the core. Let them know the reasons behind the decision or information - be honest about what you do and don’t know. Let them know how you feel and your motives - you are a human being delivering a message to another human being. It’s not about you - conveying the message is primarily about them, so don’t make it about you. Acknowledge the emotions - that the news is likely to impact them, and that’s perfectly understandable. Check in for understanding - ask them to share the news in their own words and clarify anything that isn’t clear. Commit to supporting them - let them know that you’re here to help. Look after yourself - sharing bad news can knock you around, so find others who can support you. If we follow each of these steps, we’re in a much better position to deliver negative news in a way where people can hear it, process it, and then seek additional support.   Reference
Summary This week we explore why everyone is a born leader - that we all have a head start in some facet of leadership.   Transcript Hello and welcome to episode 37 of the Leadership Today Podcast where each week we tackle one of today’s biggest leadership challenges. This week we are exploring why everyone is a born leader. I was just about to give a presentation at a conference recently when someone said “I see you’re talking about leadership today - don’t you think leaders are born?” My answer, having had over 20 years to research and think about it, might surprise you. The answer is yes - I do think leaders are born. But probably not in the way you expect. When most people think about ‘born leaders’ they’re usually thinking about things like charisma, confidence, and extraversion - those up front skills that draw others in and create enthusiasm. The reality is that some people have a head start in these areas through genetics and the environment in which they grow up, so you might consider them to be born leaders. But these skills and traits are just part of effective leadership. In fact, not every great leader is charismatic, confident and extraverted. There are many different ways to be an effective leader. Research into leadership and Emotional Intelligence highlights a suite of competencies that can help people to be great leaders, each of which can be learned and developed. I recall an interview with Daniel Goleman, whose books on Emotional Intelligence helped popularise the concept in the 1990s and beyond. Goleman was asked what he thought about Steve Jobs as a leader, and whether Jobs had great emotional intelligence. Now, this was a loaded question, particularly since Jobs had only just passed away earlier that same year. Jobs was clearly a very successful leader who transformed the way we think about technology, music distribution and even animated movies. But he was also renowned for being extremely demanding to the point of being aggressive, often belittling people in front of others. In fact, his close friend and Apple designer Jony Ive described it like this: “I once asked him why he gets so mad about stuff. He said, 'But I don't stay mad.' He has this very childish ability to get really worked up about something, and it doesn't stay with him at all. But, there are other times, I think honestly, when he's very frustrated, and his way to achieve catharsis is to hurt somebody. And I think he feels he has a liberty and licence to do that. The normal rules of social engagement, he feels, don't apply to him. Because of how very sensitive he is, he knows exactly how to efficiently and effectively hurt someone. And he does do that.” That doesn’t sound very emotionally intelligent. But Goleman drew out Job’s vision and inspirational leadership - his ability to come up with new ways of thinking and bring people around that vision. You only have to watch the launch on the first iPhone to see these strengths in full display. Goleman also pointed out that emotional intelligence is a spectrum of abilities, and that you don’t have to be great at all of them to be great as a leader. In fact, great leadership can be built on empathy and insight into others. Or resilience and the ability to bounce back quickly from setbacks. Or warmth and the ability to connect with others. Or analytical capacity - being able to pull things apart into their component parts. Or conceptual ability - being able to link disparate ideas into a unified whole. Once we broaden out the list of capabilities associated with success as a leader, you start to recognise that we all have a head start in at least a few areas. That we are all born leaders in our own way. When I’m facilitating I often ask groups to repeat some statements about leadership. There’s something powerful about a group of 50 or 100 people all saying the same thing. The two statements that have the biggest impact are “Anyone can become a great leader” and “The best leader you can be is yourself.” This week I challenge you to think of yourself as a born leader, with just as much capacity and potential for great leadership as anyone else.
Summary Leadership isn’t just what you do in the moment - it’s the legacy you leave. This week we look at four steps to building a legacy of leaders. Transcript Hello and welcome to episode 36 of the Leadership Today Podcast where each week we tackle one of today’s biggest leadership challenges. This week we are looking at four steps to building a legacy of leaders. Leadership isn’t just what you do in the moment - it’s the legacy you leave. In fact, the most effective leaders create a lasting legacy in people - they create more leaders. The effectiveness of a leader is best measured at least 5 to 10 years further on. Great leadership takes time - there aren’t many quick wins. It’s best to think of leadership as a long-term investment. I recently spoke at a conference in Malaysia with a group of Doctors, mainly heads of departments in major hospitals from around the world, on this very topic. Hospitals are a tricky environment in which to identify and develop leaders - there’s time pressure, people spreading their hours across multiple hospitals, highly technical work - lots of things to grapple with. Perhaps you have similar pressures in your environment as well. But there are still steps we can take to make progress. There are four things each of us can do to build a legacy of leaders: 1. Build Understanding - develop a clear and shared view of what ‘great leadership’ looks like in your context. People have often had poor experiences of leadership or have a limited view of what leadership is - that it’s about bossing people around or being taken away from the work that I enjoy. In workshops I ask people to share examples of great leadership. I’m always impressed by the range of answers given. The exercise helps people to understand that leadership isn’t one thing, and that people can be effective leaders in many different ways. That the best way to lead is firstly to be yourself. This helps people to broaden their view of what leadership looks like, and consider whether leadership may, in fact, be for them. That anyone can be a great leader - we all have something to bring and capabilities that we can develop. 2. Explore Aspiration - it’s essential to have development discussions to explore a person’s level of interest in leadership. I worked with a large organisation that had identified hundreds of people in a leadership high potential pool. But the people didn’t know they were in the high potential pool. It was all too common for someone from the pool to be tapped on the shoulder and offered a leadership role, but they had no interest in leadership. No one had even asked them if they aspired to a leadership position. Exploring aspirations makes a real difference. 3. Develop Capability - allow opportunities for practise, feedback and coaching. This can include step up, secondment and project opportunities, but with focused development attached. I’m a big fan of monthly one-on-one meetings that include discussion around an individual’s development. And you don’t need to do all the capability development yourself. You can help them to find mentors both within and outside the organisation that can focus on specific areas they’re interested in developing. 4. Provide Capacity - people need time to develop leadership capability, and this needs to be factored into the job design. A great question for discussion is how much time a person should have each week for leading others versus personally delivering work. Now I know you can’t necessarily carve out specific activities as pure leadership, but it intrigues me when people provide really low numbers - like 3 or 4 hours a week. A study in Harvard Business Review found CEOs spent between 32% to 67% of their time with their direct reports. In fact, they spent more time with their direct reports when they had greater confidence in them. Other research suggested each employee should have around 6 hours a week interacting with their leader to maximise engagement, rising to 10 or even 20 hours for innovation focused work. And increased face to face time with their leader saw a dramatic reduction in the volume of emails they sent and received. This data also suggests each leader should have a cap of around seven direct reports to be most effective - beyond that, the leader can’t dedicate enough time to leading people. I encourage you to spend some time this week considering your own legacy as a leader, and how you can create even more leaders who can multiply your efforts and impact. References
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