Leadership expert Chris Atkinson gives his tips on how to transform yourself into an amazing leader.
My experience of working in leadership development for more than 15 years is that our instincts are misleading; your leadership behaviours are most likely NOT happening to the extent that you believe they are.
The simplicity of concepts like these below is their greatest risk because they tempt you into thinking “yes, I’m sure I do that!”
You must make a conscious and systematic effort to sustain the behaviours over time so that they ultimately become part of your corporate or team culture.
1. Be crystal clear on what constitutes leadership activities (don’t confuse with management)
Typically, leadership covers anything involving people but NOT focused on processes, KPI’s, measures or planning… You might be wondering what that leaves!!
2. Schedule leadership time daily as you would any appointment
Leadership behaviours have a tendency never to happen unless they are planned in or made a part of your regular habits. Once a commitment is made you can quickly evaluate how important leadership is to someone by how willing they are to move or reprioritise the activity.
Make sure you demonstrate the importance of leadership to you by prioritising it as highly as you would any urgent business need.
3. Show humility, become a lifelong learner
Nothing frustrates more than a leader who thinks they know it all. Make a visible/public statement about your willingness to learn and grow.
When you are consistently humble you create space for others to explore, if you are the obvious expert then others will always defer to your judgement and stop thinking themselves.
4. Show vulnerability
Trust is proportional to openness and, in recent years, the idea of vulnerability has become a big topic in leadership.
Risk revealing things you might not normally speak about in front of your people, this promotes high levels of trust. For many leaders showing vulnerability feels unusual and risky but the rewards are huge.
5. Ask for feedback regularly
Never assume what people want from you and never wait to be told. You have two choices in life, 1) to find out what people think about you and, 2) to not find out what people think.
If you choose the second option people are still thinking the same thoughts about you but you have no control and no chance to change. Have courage, actively ask “what can I do to better support you?” and “what do I do that gets in your way?”
6. Be direct and fearless in your conversations
We often find ourselves dancing around unsaid issues where you know what someone is thinking and, probably, they also know what you are thinking! But no one says these things out aloud. Try ‘calling out’ what you believe is happening, speak about it in a direct manner. Remember to remain calm and hold an open dialogue.
7. Get to know the person behind the function
Too many people understand their colleagues only in terms of their functional role in the organisation. Make an effort to understand the real person behind the role not just the job they are performing!
Once you understand someone at the level of their character, interests, priorities, home-life, attitude and beliefs you will be able to tailor your style much more effectively to get the best from them.
8. Adapt and shape the role to the individual’s strengths/weaknesses
It very tempting to unify similar job roles so that each person has exactly the same job description and duties however one size fits all will never deliver great results. It takes skill and good relationships within a team to achieve but to get the very best a leader must uniquely craft each role for the individual in that role.
9. Delegate results not tasks
Delegation is hugely misunderstood as being about giving away work. Most people delegate to free up their time. Actually delegation is a process specifically to develop and grow talent in your teams.
Therefore, don’t delegate a list of tasks, instead delegate a desired outcome and then get out of the way! In allowing the person to find their own style and approach you are developing their skills and fostering talent.
10. Become a better coach
Coaching has become the preferred communication style for leadership. Coaching itself seems quite straightforward on the surface but skilled coaching takes practice and expertise. If you want a future career in leadership you must learn to become a strong coach.