Sunday, 22 May 2016

5 Things I Learned About Leadership

At the end of 2015, I was nominated to be a part of the company's talent management and leadership programme. It was a big achievement for me as at that time I have only been with the company for a year.

I started my leadership journey in the talent management programme earlier this year.
The programme is aimed at harnessing the talent and creating future leaders for the company. I am currently 2/3 of my way through the programme with one module left which will be completed in June.

The programme has been a useful platform to remind me about what it takes to become an effective leader. Whilst most of the knowledge I have picked up are not necessarily ground breaking and as a matter of fact, leadership is not rocket science, there are a number of things that I have taken away from the sessions that I thought are worth sharing. More often than not, we are all too busy climbing the ladder, and constantly chasing for the next big thing, that we forget about these 5 fundamental things about what it truly means to be a an effective leader.

So today, I thought I'd share some of the key points that I have picked up along the way. I sure hope that you will find these useful.

1.Not all leaders are extrovert
This is probably the number one myth about being a leader. I can understand why as most leaders of companies are often put on the spot light to face a wide range of stakeholders from the board to the media to the regulators. We often see them calm, composed, relaxed and they speak eloquently and their words make sense. Don't forget that leaders are human beings and it is normal that some of them are introverts too. We tend to only see when they are on the stage making big presentations or speeches, and what we don't get to see is the preparation that they do before taking the centre stage. No matter how senior one is or how long one has been in a senior role, preparation is key. Some leaders I have met told me that their preparation encompasses minute details about the weather or what's hot in the news (which are often handy for the small chats and ice breaking jokes) to anticipating what difficult or controversial questions he/she could get asked and what are the best ways to handle those without appearing as though they are deflecting the questions.

2. Everyone can be a leader
Yes, whilst most prominent leaders have common qualities such as they perform best in the morning (despite numerous attempt, I am still not a morning person yikes!), they read a certain number of books in a year, they are assertive, so on and so forth, those qualities are not necessarily something that they are born with. We all go through different routes when it comes to our careers. Whether you got to where you are based on your qualifications or work experience journey, all the key qualities of a leader can be picked up and learned along the way. These can be gained through a leadership programme, coaching or simply by emulating the positive behaviours of a certain leader whom you highly respected and aspire to be. So, if you come from a very humble background and non of your family members have become the Steve Jobs or the Obama of the world, don't feel that you are at the disadvantage.

3. Leaders are career activist
To put things simply, there are generally two types of people. One who sit and wait for things to happen and the other make things happen. Leaders often have a variety of different experiences even if they have only worked for that one organisation. This is because they keep their eyes open for all the opportunities that exist in the company and when the time is right they put their hands up and go for it. They often are not afraid to be turned down or received 'No' as an answer. Instead of sulking in the corner when they are unsuccessful, they take the learning points to develop themselves further and try again and again.

4. Leaders are not meant to be nice
Whilst it is nice to be the most well liked person in the department or the company, always remember that you are paid to do the job well. As a leader, there will be times when you have to make tough decisions and deliver unpleasant messages. And during those moments you will have to be objective, make the tough calls and said the not-so-nice things. So naturally you are not going to be well-liked at that particular moment, but always remember that you are doing your job and it's nothing personal.

5. Leaders do not always know everything
Being a leader is not about being flawless and being Mr or Miss Know It All. Effective leaders often know their strengths and their limitations. They know that their success will also be dependent on those whom he/she surround him/herself with. Having an effective team is paramount to becoming an effective leader. Let's face it, it's impossible for anyone to know everything and be able to do everything all by him/herself. Therefore, having a great team to support you is important. True leaders often hire people who are as passionate,  as driven and as ambitious as they are. They are not afraid to empower their team because they believe that it's important to create the next generation of leaders. This will not only create sufficient succession plan but also enables him/her to move on to other more interesting or bigger role (see #2).

So there you have it. 5 things I have picked up from the leadership programme. As I said, none of these are new and unheard of, but sometimes we do need that little reminder.

I hope you have found this useful. Enjoy the rest of the weekend and have a productive week ahead.

All photos were shot at Herve Castle, Kent, England

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