Managers and Leaders: there could not be a more discussed topic! All you need to do is google these two words to see how many thousands of pages are being written in and around them.
The reason, in my opinion, is because true and authentic leadership is very difficult to achieve.
Yet, organisations are asking their managers to think and act like leaders in order to address the challenges and embrace the opportunities that come from the complex world we live in.
Personally I believe that leadership qualities can be developed and nurtured through self-awareness, self-reflection and on-going feedback.
They can be also reinforced through role-modelling and mentoring support. In summary, and to a great extent, they can be learnt.
But where might one start on his or her leadership journey? Which actions are going to provide the greater impact in the shortest of times?
In my opinion, apart from achieving even greater self-awareness, most impactful actions will be those that involve building relationships and achieving the trust of the people around you. For that to happen, few simple steps can make a whole world of difference:
#1 Harness Positive Emotions
Whoever said that emotions have no place in the workplace has clearly overlooked the impact that expressing positive feelings can have on people. Empathy, laughter, joy, optimism, encouragement are just some of the emotions I am thinking of that can help create a totally different difference workplace experience to the people you manage. When we open up to these emotions we show our 'human' side and at the same time encourage others to do the same. There is plenty of evidence that happy people are more productive people, thus sharing a joke, celebrating a success or even a colleague's out of work achievement can make the difference to a team's ability to deliver on a daily, weekly and annual basis. It is not by chance that most successful leaders are also highly emotional intelligent: they know full well that success at work starts (and finishes) with the people who are supposed to execute their vision and they harness positive emotions to motivate and uplift others.
#2 Ask insightful questions
As managers focussing on a task we are required to tell people what to do so that we may achieve that task on time and to budget. But when managers stop telling staff what to do and start asking staff what they thing they should be doing, something quite different begins to happen. All of a sudden the tables are turned and colleagues realise that their opinion matters; that they are trusted to make good decisions; that they are empowered as to what should be prioritised...in short, that they are accountable and have ownership of their work. The impact of this can leave you astounded and certainly as a manager, wondering why you had not done it before. As a manager you are going to find yourself with a lot more time to focus on the really important tasks. You are also going to find that solutions, different perspectives and new ideas are brought to you on a regular basis, just because other colleagues have been given the opportunity to contribute their own views. So simple yet ever so powerful!
#3 Invite feedback from others
Feedback is one thing that authentic leaders do well - it remains very important as well as a courageous thing to do because it implies a number of other qualities. More specifically, it means that the manager is willing to listen, reflect and learn from others which in itself are already leadership attributes!
Feedback matters because it is through feedback that we show a willingness to dig deeper into ourselves, taking a closer look at aspects of our personality and our work, even when this causes discomfort. It also matters because it helps us create a culture of open and transparent communication where nobody or nothing is untouchable. In inviting feedback we also confirm our intent to remain humble and grounded - even though we may sit relatively high in the 'pecking order'.
Above all, by inviting feedback we send an important message to the people around us, that their views matters and that learning is an on-going, never ending process we all need to embrace.
Alessandra is an experienced mentor, business coach, consultant and strategist. She supports individuals - especially women - and organisations in achieving their potential through customised, outcome driven interventions . You can find out more about Alessandra here and contact her by email here.