Leadership….a much over-complicated skill

I am lucky enough to have worked with leadership teams from large international businesses for over 25 years, and if I am completely honest ‘what leadership is’ mystified me for a long time; walk into the business section of any library, and there are large number of very impressive pieces of work about leadership. In fact, there are institutions that specialise in leadership. Leadership is big business.

Leadership is a mystery

But leadership is also a mystery to many and too difficult to access and apply, because is it just that…a mystery. It is also true, that poor leadership causes so much angst in our society (from our politicians to our CEOs, our middle managers to our teachers, and so many more)…surely we can think of it in simple terms, and help the ‘every day leader’ succeed. Let’s face it, most of you reading this are probably ‘everyday leaders’ – only a few of you will have saved the world, launched a multi-billion-dollar company, led the masses into battle, or created and led a political movement.

1000+ leaders cannot be wrong….

I am lucky enough to have asked the following questions to somewhere north of 1000 senior leaders in businesses across the globe: “who is the most inspirational leader that you have ever come across, and what was it that they did that made them so?”. The answers were astonishingly aligned…..

In the next few paragraphs, I wanted to give you an insight into what I discovered…funnily enough, remarkably consistent to what Steve Radcliffe talks about in his excellent book, “Leadership Plain and Simple”.

Health Warning – this will could be the biggest impact on your leadership in years, should you apply this approach

Well…that was what those 1000+ leaders told me!
This is what I truly believe.
It is backed up by solid research.
It is not complete…

….but it is simple, easy to understand and remarkably accessible and therefore likely to be applied and make a difference.

Leadership can be broken down to 3 core areas:

  1. Know where you are going
  2. Take others with you
  3. Make it happen

Told you it was easy….but let’s have a closer look.

  1. Know where you are going – If you are to do this, you need to be clear about your outcomes – the results that you want to achieve, how you are going to measure it, and also who you are as an individual; people are more likely to follow you, if you come across as authentic, and as someone with purpose (see the excellent article by my friend and business partner @Steven Edney on purpose as an excellent tool to support)

  2. Take others with you – As a leader, you are ALWAYS ON…..you’d better believe it! You need to be conscious of the leader you are being perceived as….how is it that others feel around you. You know, it is often a surprise to leaders to discover the reality of this…when was the last time you asked for that feedback from your team, customers and stakeholders? Also….to take others with you….you need to ‘sell them, not tell them’…and selling is about them, not you. (See my recent article for more about this.)

  3. Finally…Make it happen…but crucially….this is NOT YOU…this is others. Think about the buzz, energy, ingenuity, innovation and excitement created when a team truly collaborates….this is about you unleashing that in others through your connection, influence , coaching and support….this is the best bit about leadership, when the team takes on its own identity….and just Makes it Happen.

So there it is…..pragmatic, real world leadership observations that make a huge impact on others. As with everything, it will only make a difference if it becomes a habit….great leaders are rarely born….they usually step in consciously to the leadership space, and choose what they do.

Try it…and let me know what difference you notice as a result.

If you found this article interesting or useful, or know someone else who may well do, please like comment or share, as appropriate.

Alex Selwood

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