The highest employment percentage since records began, the lowest unemployment rate since 1975: statistics such as these are fantastic tribute to the ongoing success of UK business. Yes the future may be a little uncertain with the formal Brexit process about to start; but it seems as though we have a good platform on which to build a strong and growing future.
With this in mind you would think it would be the perfect time for us to highlight the five practices of outstanding leaders; helping aspiring leaders and those in leadership positions across organisations to bring their individual talents to bear in promoting the success of their businesses. And of course it is: Modelling the Way, Inspiring a Shared Vision, Challenging the Process, Enabling Others to Act and Encouraging the Heart have all been identified as key practices for leaders who want to take their leadership role to the next level.
However, it has been said that success breeds complacency and in an already successful marketplace there is always the danger that leadership teams may not see the need for further improvement. So we thought we’d take a look at leadership from another angle, examining five practices which outstanding leaders probably wouldn’t want to pursue.
A disconnect of words and deeds.
Okay, this is a tricky one to start with. At the time of writing the Chancellor of the Exchequer is under fire (or praised depending on which news media you follow) for having made a U-turn on his proposal to increase national insurance contributions for the self-employed. But his decision is a perfect illustration of the way in which policies need not be set in stone and that sometimes a revaluation is necessary.
In fact the strongest leaders are those who aren’t afraid to say I got it wrong. But on the other side of the spectrum there are those whose words rarely match up with their deeds. These are people who promise much yet do little to ensure that their vision is translated into reality. These are the people whose words and actions are rarely in accord and even when they do coincide they create such confusion or uncertainty that others find it hard to trust them. Modelling the way is far more than throwing out some grand idea and then leaving others to pick up the pieces.
Love the new slogan on your wall; now what? The trouble is that it is all too easy to talk about visionary leadership without looking to the next logical step. No matter how good the idea, simply pasting it on the wall in reception or giving it a section on the website isn’t going to mean anything unless you inspire others to act on the vision.
And then there’s the danger in seeing yourself as a visionary leader, having a very narrow focus and refusing to look at anything outside of your comfort zone. If you really want to inspire others then your vision has to be based on something more than ‘man in a pub told me’ or ‘I had a great idea in the middle of the night.’
Everything is fine
So no one has bought you any problems recently, no one has given you any negative feedback. That doesn’t mean that you can be complacent or that all processes are optimised. Of course it could be that the culture you preside over is one of intimidation and bullying and therefore people filter bad news before it arrives at your door. And even if everything is great there is no reason not to continue to challenge the process, to push to make things even better.
Control, control, control
You do it my way or you are out, bring me only good news, failure to meet targets results in dismissal. Especially when times are hard the instinctive response can be to increase levels of control, sometimes to the point at which people are afraid to act, afraid to make decisions and afraid to question. Having control, knowing that things are going exactly the way you want them to may give you a measure of reassurance but at what cost? When you stop enabling people to act you remove every chance of the organisation overcoming setbacks, building great service and reputation and innovating new products.
They’ve got a job haven’t they, I pay them to work hard, if they don’t like it they can always go elsewhere. Quite frankly, no! When you see people in terms of ownership and control then there is something far wrong with your leadership and your culture. You don’t own them and they don’t owe you anything. Long-term success comes from encouraging the heart not binding it with chains.
Leadership is a privilege, not a right; it is a responsibility not a chance for self-glorification. When you forget that, when you try and impose control or treat people as objects then there is only going to be one outcome and it’s not going to be one which benefits you, your people, your organisation or your customers.
Helen is a collaborator, a deadline demon and a diplomat. She is often described by her colleagues and clients as the glue in their projects. She can be contacted via www.questleadership.co.uk or E-mail: [email protected].
After a degree in Hotel & Catering Management at Surrey University, she worked for 10 years with Whitbread, Bass and the Forte Group, gaining broad business experience in operations, communications, senior management and franchising. This eclectic experience reinforced Helen’s belief in the untapped potential in people and the importance of strong values in business and has formed the foundations of her subsequent career.
Helen worked for 10 years in business consulting with Tom Peters Company, as senior consultant and Partner, before co-founding Quest Leadership in 2007.
During her consulting career, Helen has worked at all levels, with individuals and teams, to initiate and facilitate personal development. Recent clients include: LSG Skychefs, Aim Aviation, Leica Geosystems, Texas Instruments, EnOcean, Gripple Ltd..
Helen’s competitive streak has driven her to compete at county level in badminton, and squash and equestrian eventing. Helen’s non-work interests centre on family, friends, cooking and sport.