What is great leadership? And how will you know when YOU are a great leader?
Ten years of leading international teams has taught me five key lessons in what great leadership actually is…hint: it’s all about creating high-performing teams, everywhere you go.
1. Great leaders are as strong as their weakest team member
It was in an agency pitch that this ‘ah-ha’ dawned on me. Of course the managing director rocked, she was the MD! Solid senior council, yes, as you would expect. But it was the sharp and savvy junior team member that truly wowed me – she had her own expertise and confidence to share it. Had she not felt safe to do so with her manager’s right there, the pitch would have ended completely differently (yes, they won my business).
That’s when I realised: any leader is only as competent as their least competent team member. As a leader, you can’t be everywhere. Yet with the right coaching, guidance and empowerment, your team will turn up in the places you can’t, emulating the values and skills you have nurtured, and with time, impress other people too.
2. Great leaders know what gets their team out of bed in the morning, and what keeps them awake at night
I start my team meetings by asking ‘what’s giving you energy’ and ‘what’s draining your energy’. It’s an incredibly simple way to get insight into what your team enjoys and how you can support it.
Unlocking wasted energy is a key strategy that great leaders use so that the right activities are being fuelled with their team’s motivation and passion. Knowing what your team loves to do also helps you look for ways to give them more of that kind of work. Likewise, when you know what worries your team, you can look for ways to mitigate that ‘energy leakage’ together.
3. Great leaders create the vision – and then let go
While leaders do not need to create the vision in isolation, great leaders create and share the vision with their team. Having a clear end goal in mind is collective gold.
Great leaders know that there are infinite paths to achieving that vision, and are skilled in allowing their team members to take the path that they deem is best. Essentially, leaders are accountable for ‘what’ is achieved, but the team is accountable for ‘how’ it’s achieved. No micromanagement, please.
4. Great leaders take responsibility for their role as path-clearers
With an inspiring vision in place, great leaders take seriously anything that gets in the team’s way of achieving it. What’s in the way of your team achieving the vision you have set for it?
• Lack of time – help the team work smarter or simplify their work.
• Lack of resources – find what you can for the team.
• Lack of skills – take the time to mentor, or get someone else to do it for you. Be a path-clearer!
5. Great leaders make themselves redundant
Growth is the game of personal development. When your team can operate independently of its leader, this is the greatest measure of leadership success.
Leaders that find themselves in that situation, literally have the opportunity to step up into a new role and let their team take what’s theirs. Some might see this as a problem, but in my experience, the legacy you leave is the best measure of leadership. Supporting and skilling my team to the point that it no longer needs me has been a source of pure pride in my life as a leader.
Leadership, like every skill set, is a journey. A great journey, and one definitely worth taking.