Leadership by Virtue; are people following?
Despite the millions of pounds spent on developing leadership, I often wonder what difference it makes to real people in everyday work situations. Well-intentioned managers read books and attend traditional courses, intending to learn the necessary skills and the model through which to use them. But, despite some agreement about which character traits are helpful, when we try to put leadership into boxes and we attempt to measure ourselves against the desirable criteria, we kill the very essence of the role.
The reality is that we lead by virtue of who we are; we don’t get the title, attend training, tick the boxes and become great. True leaders are inspirational, passionate and knowledgeable. They embody the responsibility of the impact they have on others and their ability to affect change. They inspire, they create trust, they share their strengths and abilities and they convey their passion clearly. Leadership isn’t as simple as learning a trade. The measure of success is in the team around them.
People choose to follow leaders
There is no time more important to get this right than now, amidst the uncertainty of Brexit. The more a leader can provide reassurance, create the most vivid picture possible of the future and provide clarity around employees’ role in that vision, the more likely people will cling to that.
When we feel anxious, our brain’s fight-flight system is activated and the resulting emotional arousal blocks our ability to empathise, problem solve, be creative, plan and communicate clearly. In other words, uncertainty fuels emotional overload and drives poor engagement and performance. People need certainty in the present and confidence in the future, and they seek that from their leader.
This comes down to emotional-relationships. Interaction with people at a human level, respecting employees as individuals with their own emotional needs and life stressors, is the most important aspect of being a leader. People seek predictability, consistency, authenticity and clarity.
So, take time to check in with each member of your team each week. Ask them how things are going. What their challenges are. How you can help. What they’re feeling proud and excited about. Be ready to share the latest updates with them remembering that information being up-to-date is more important than being polished and well-presented. And be you… share what you’re buzzing about, struggling with, doing outside of work. Your team are humans. When people are understood, emotionally connected and inspired, the role of a leader is rewarding and successful. And it is a lot easier to lead than push!
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