Sep 01

Growing your leadership

I was asked recently for my top tips on this topic. Over the last 30 years I have had the chance to observe and work with many very senior leaders in large organisations. And, equally validly, leaders of very small community and not for profit organisations. Leadership can exist almost anywhere. The person who steps forward when a pedestrian falls over or there is an accident. The parent who has to evolve their leadership strategies as their children grow to adolescents. The ‘ordinary person’ who cares about something and suddenly finds themselves heading up a growing campaign.

Whatever the context, I think these three things are true across all of those scenarios I have encountered. And they have helped me more than any management theories.


  1. Know yourself. In my experience the biggest barrier to external leadership is internal leadership. Many of the people I work with have grown up in a world where ‘leaders’ leave their heart and soul at the office door. In today’s climate this is no longer appropriate. Self-actualisation of staff – especially millennials – is increasing, as is their hunger for it. They want to see the real person. I ask people to consider that¬†leadership is what you are left with when all your authority is stripped away. What have you got when you feel completely out of your depth? Without any¬†common language, cultural reference or experience? Find the iron in your soul. Read books, go to talks, walk on the beach. Do what works for you but find out who you are.
  2. Know your people. So many leaders have no idea what is going on inside the heads of their staff. So they try to motivate them based on no data. Unless you know what they want, how can you design a compelling employee value proposition, build engagement or develop loyalty? Why would they give you their very best if they don’t think you are that interested?
  3. Remember what it’s all about. The best leaders I see remember the end game. The children they are educating, the homeowners they are providing electricity plants to, the economic development they are supporting. Everything else has to be secondary to this purpose yet very often I see organisations that have become so introspective, so self involved, that they have lost their sense of purpose.

I’m going to keep this short because you know in your bones what this means for you. You know which one triggered you when you read them. You know where to do the work. Enjoy it!

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