I was asked to speak to a group of LTS staff this week on the subject of leadership and identify some ‘top tips’ for aspiring leaders. Here is a adaptation of what I came up with as a starter for discussion:
- Be a lifelong learner – as soon as you think you know all the answers you can be sure you don’t. Read as much as you can and widely as you can (not just ‘how to’ stuff but also the classics of literature because they are timeless and deeply rooted in the human condition).
- Know what you stand for – what do you believe, what are the values that underpin your work and why are you doing the job in the first place?
- Recruit well – never employ someone if you are not sure about them. The best employees don’t need to be motivated, your job as a leader/manager is to make sure you don’t demotivate them (Jim Collins in ‘Good to Great’ talks about getting the right people on the bus and in the right seats on the bus).
- Embrace complexity, ambiguity and change – that’s the way the world is so you might as well get used to it, deal with it and where possible manage, control and direct it.
- Be as strategic as you possibly can – try to see the big picture, look to the long-term and try to take people with you (taking time to win hearts and minds pays dividends in the long run).
- Know your role and what counts as success in your role – if you are leader then you can’t spend all of your time on management tasks. Any more than a shop assistant can spend all the time stocking the shelves and sweeping the floor. They need to serve customers you need to provide leadership.
- Learn how to prioritise – everything you do is important because you are spending your valuable time doing it (and unless you are self employed somebody else’s money, eg the taxpayer). You need to be able to quickly identify exactly where you need to spend your time and try to deal with tasks before they become urgent, ie be proactive rather than reactive (Stephen Covey of the 7 Habits writes well on this). You need to develop a light touch. Land on the task that needs your attention give it exactly the right amount of attention and then move on without carrying any baggage to the next task.
- Try to make your work serious fun but don’t take yourself too seriously – listen a lot and try to smile (even laugh) more.
- [Late addition LO’D] Be as optimistic as you can be given the context you find yourself in – back to Jim Collins and what he calls the Stockdale Paradox, never lose the belief that you will in the end be successful but make sure you also confront the ‘brutal facts’ of your current situation and deal with them. Martin Selegman’s ‘Learned Optimism’ is also important here, blind optimism is not a rational position you sometimes need to be more pessimistic.
How do these look? What have I missed? Are they tips about leadership or something else?[Further late addition: Interesting link on John Connell’s blog to a pdf of the Little Book of Leadership.]