If you were to guess how many books have been published on leadership, what would your answer be? In the hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands or millions?
It’s hard to get accurate data. More than 60 000 items are on Amazon and close to ten thousand on Booktopia. And let’s not even include Google, which heads towards the millions. There are also many leadership frameworks and leadership models, yet effective leadership is still, at times, thin on the ground. You only have to read or listen to the news to see examples, or perhaps simply cast your eye around your workplace.
The Gallup group found that 82% of employees see their leaders as uninspiring, only 15% of employees are engaged at work, and only one in three employees strongly agree that they trust their organisation’s leadership.
Recently, I’ve seen lots of cases of people walking away from jobs not because they didn’t enjoy the work, but because they didn’t like their boss’ style.
Leading today isn’t easy. There are competing demands, constant changes, and never-ending pressure. But it’s also a choice.
If you want to lead people, the first step is genuinely wanting to be a good leader. Now, I know that sounds obvious but there are some people who are more interested in the status and title that comes with the job and find the people side of the job draining. Sure, leading people can be hard, but nothing worth doing ever comes easy.
Leaders face choices every day in how they lead and how they learn. They can create a culture of denial and exclusion or one of opportunity for themselves, their team, and the organisation.
There is no perfect leadership style or precise template to follow. It is never one size fits all because leadership is personal and it’s contextual. Securing success demands that each leader steps up to find their unique style, which changes as they advance and evolve and the needs of their working environment and their team shift.
The action you need to take to elevate your leadership is different from what other people may need to do. This is you creating your personal leadership playbook filled with strategies and tactics that put you in the best possible position to lead with integrity, authenticity and courage.
There are three key steps:
- Awareness – of yourself, others and the environment in which you are working
- Acceptance – of what you can and can’t change or influence, and a recognition of the ‘so-called’ leadership rules that should no longer apply
- Adaptation – a willingness to change and alter your leadership style so it is fit for purpose
Being self-aware is a lifelong process and is certainly not a tick-the-box exercise. It requires a commitment to know yourself, a willingness to examine what lurks in the shadows and an openness to feedback.
It starts with the leader examining what needs to change in them – before seeking to change others. This focus includes building awareness of their leadership style, potential derailers and understanding what triggers them to behave effectively and sub-optimally.
Understanding what change a leader needs to make goes beyond pinpointing new technical skills. It’s about delving into the meaning that drives their behaviour and the mental models they apply to their decision-making.
Focus on Acceptance
As a leader, your behaviour has a massive impact on your team members. Bad leadership is contagious.
When leaders mistreat their direct reports, this behaviour is often passed down the line. In a joint study, conducted by Vanderbilt University, Cornell University and the University of Illinois, of 1527 full-time employees at 94 hotels across the United States and Canada, researchers found a positive correlation between middle managers’ satisfaction with their senior managers and the line employees’ satisfaction with their middle managers.
It’s a trickle-down effect. When leaders mistreat their direct reports, this dysfunction cascades through the organisation.
Employees are motivated when they are valued and respected.
Good leadership isn’t about hierarchy and power, which means some old paradigms about what it means to be a leader no longer work. There will be some rules you need to ditch and others you need to reshape and retain.
Uplift and Adapt
When a leader stops trying to be the leader they ‘should’ be and starts learning to be the leader they ‘could’ be, they will find their unique leadership style.
Crafting and developing this style doesn’t happen by accident. It takes effort and practice as you strive to be the best leader you can be every day.
Achieving that goal is hard if you don’t have clear intentions about what type of leader you want to be and your leadership legacy. It helps to spend time writing your leadership manifesto. This written document clearly states who you are, what you stand for and how you want to develop as a leader.
Your leadership playbook is waiting for you to write it, so what are you waiting for?
Getting you ready for tomorrow, today®
Michelle Gibbings is bringing back the happy to workplace culture. The author of three books, and a global keynote speaker, she’s on a mission to help leaders, teams and organisations create successful workplaces – where people thrive and progress is accelerated.