Leadership Blog: Tips for Strengthening Your Leadership Centre (Part 2)

In our last talk, we looked at a few ways of effectively building up your centre as a fundamental discipline of the modern leader. I raised the point of understanding our place in the larger scheme of things, regardless of our leadership level or style, and knowing that there are things that will always be outside of our control.

That first part of our discussion focussed on developing the aspects about leadership that tend to come up most frequently in any meaningful introspection. They come up the most because they tie in directly with the day-to-day aspects of owning a business and leading a team.

For this part of our conversation, I would like us to look at a few tips that centre on character development; namely, recognising and managing those little idiosyncrasies common to even the greatest and most beloved leaders.

It all begins with the simple understanding that a leader is a human being first and a human doing second. After all, you can’t be a strong leader without a strong core.

DON’T: Take Anything Personally, Dwell In Disappointment, Reflect On Regret

By the same token that we leaders encourage our teams to have short term memories for failings, leaders too, must be particularly mindful that, regardless of how invested or connected they are to their business, they should not take missteps personally.

Today’s leaders must understand that their teams look to them for support, inspiration, and guidance. How, therefore, can any progress be made, forward when we, as leaders, refuse to move on? When we choose to dwell in disappoint and reflect on regret?

Athletes know this all too well. They are encouraged and expected to perform at a high level at every step of the way. We expect that star football forward, top order batsman, or prolific point guard to hit the mark and win the game spectacularly every time.

But we all know that is never the case.

Consider Michael Jordan, one of the greatest athletes and leaders of the 20th Century. He has more accolades associated with his career than most any other athlete in the field. But did you know that he has missed far more shots than he has made? It’s the ones that he made that we remember the most.

And he made those shots because he didn’t obsess over the ones he missed. He’s even quoted as saying, “Twenty-six times I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

The true calling for a leader is to understand those times where we have fallen short, use the lessons that stem from the experience, and most of all, move on. Forget the error, focus on the lesson, and keep trying.

Develop Effective Communication Skills

When you think about it, leaders always have a vision and a strategy. It goes with the job. But how many of us have the tools, the emotional intelligence and the basic understanding of human interaction to translate those ideas and thoughts in our minds into words that motivate and a work ethic that inspires our teams?

It’s all too easy for leaders of today to blur the lines between being a leader and a boss. Leaders reach out and engage; bosses are inaccessible and dictate.

It’s safe to say that no one likes a boss. No one likes to have someone lord over them, barking orders and snapping when things don’t go as planned.

Leaders who lack effective communication skills can expect two things to happen. The first is team attrition – even the best, most loyal employees have their breaking points. When team members leave, they are gone for good with precious little positive to say about you or your leadership style.

The second is business failure. A lack of effective communications skills can undermine a business in ways one can scarcely imagine. Remember, leaders are the face of the company, the heart and soul. What would you think if that face was not compassionate? If that heart and soul were cold and hard to relate to? Would you still want anything to do with that company or organisation?

So learn how to speak to your people. Moreover, learn how to listen to them professionally and empathetically. Pay close attention to any emotions behind the messages without prejudgment or distraction and adjust your response accordingly. A leader should never have to resort to dictating to teams what must be done. That isn’t leadership. It’s dictatorship. And as any student of the world or of history can testify, dictatorships fail by the very strengths upon which they are based – fear and loathing.

Delegate don't abdicate

Assigning responsibility is another critical aspect of effective leadership. But it’s only half of the equation. Leaders must also accept responsibility. That is why the best leaders strive to understand their teams and assign responsibilities accordingly.

Great leaders don’t run away from unenviable tasks by delegating what they themselves wouldn’t want to do. They talk the talk and walk the walk. They understand that yes, at times it may be a dirty job but somebody has to do it. And often enough that “somebody” is you, the leader.

We should actively discourage the development of any type of “pass the buck” culture within our teams. Never ask anyone to do something you would not do yourself.

Alongside this is giving the proper credit when things go according to plan and when they don’t, accepting that responsibility (and of course, taking the lesson and moving on).

Passion is contagious

Let’s face it. Leaders are by nature some of the most passionate people on the planet. They would have to be since it takes a certain amount of energy to transform idea into reality; inspiration into action.

At its very best, this passion can motivate others to rise to a higher functioning level. At its worst, this passion can be overwhelming and intimidating.

Regardless of the intensity or the source, two things must be understood above all. Firstly, passion is contagious. Whatever energy we put out as leaders, good or bad, it is going to spread to our teams and even our clients. So we need to be careful with what we put out there.

The second is that, passion is authentic. It is a part of who we are as leaders and a direct influencer of our actions, and the way we communicate to our people.

So you may be the kind of leader who prefers decisive and fast action. You talk fast, you think fast, you may even walk fast. But always remember that for every step you take, literally and figuratively, you are being looked at and looked up to. Being mindful of the consequences of our actions helps greatly with shaping the way we lead our teams.

Strengthen Your Core

As if the daily demands of running your business aren’t enough, it seems that there is always at least one more thing that a leader needs to be doing. It’s an uphill journey to be sure. But having the right tools, the right mindset, and the right team can mean the difference between a successful ascent and a rapid descent.

Striving for leadership excellence is a balancing act between remaining authentic to who we are as people first, and what we aspire to be as leaders second. Every balance must have a core upon which it hinges. If that centre is weak, everything else can be expected to fall apart.

Want to be a stronger, better leader? Start by strengthening your core.

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