11 Leadership Lessons Learned

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Here are 11 lessons I’ve learned about leadership—mostly from much-admired colleagues, and just a little of my own experience.

Please agree, disagree or add yours…..

In no particular order:

11 Leadership Lessons

1. Talk less, listen more. People will pay attention to what you say, just because of your position. The leader’s job is to pay attention to what other people say, especially those who think their views don’t count. Show you’re listening by acting on what people tell you, and gain their trust by giving them the credit.

2. Don’t step in with solutions too quickly. No-one learns anything new if you keep doing what you already know how to do, and don’t allow others to try. Anyway, they may find a different, or better way, and if not… mistakes are valuable too.

3. Be authentic, passionate, even emotional, about what you believe in. Share your vision and live your values. The personal is more engaging, even inspiring, than the process.

4. Don’t ‘dis’ downwards. Once a decision is made by the Board, or the leadership team, it’s yours even if you argued against it during discussions. Your job as leader is to get others to believe in, and work towards, a shared goal, not to divide opinion or loyalties.

5. I’m OK: You’re OK. Start from the position that everyone is doing the best they can, then look for ways to support and encourage them – which is so much more rewarding than finding fault.

6. Don’t be the smartest person in the room. Being a leader does not mean knowing more than anyone else. Recognise, encourage and promote others as experts. Give them the trust and autonomy to be creative and do excellent work, defined in their terms. You simply provide the direction, so that this excellent work contributes to a shared purpose.

7. Sense of purpose. Your team know what they do and how to do it, but you can make a big difference by sharing a strong sense of why they’re doing it and where it’s heading. Help them develop a broad understanding of the team’s purpose, and faith in how their role contributes to the whole. (Remember the floor-sweeper at NASA?)

8. Being right isn’t enough. A great idea is of no consequence unless you can convince others to believe it too, and then persuade them to help you make your idea a reality. The best way to do this is to make the idea theirs.

9. Focus on a few things that really matter and where you can make a difference. There may be a hundred different distractions and demands on your time and a hundred ways you could respond, but it’s the dozen carefully chosen actions that deliver the results.

10. Get out and about, and in the work. It’s hard to retain that sense of what the job’s really about when you are sitting in your office. You’ll see what people actually do, rather than what people tell you they do. And you’ll see their commitment, effort and achievements first hand, and feel proud to be part of the same team. Always inspiring, and informative, and better than any meeting!

11. Keep trying. Don’t beat yourself up when you don’t live up to your own expectations. Reflect and learn from those times when you stumble and fall over the other 10 resolutions.

What have been your top leadership lessons learned?

This post first appeared on Kate Farley’s blog, Hearts and Minds.

Kate Farley

A leader with more than 25 years management experience in local government and the voluntary sector in the UK and USA. Kate Farley is currently working as an interim manager, with a particular interest in affordable housing, and is vice-Chair of her local school academy. Kate’s strengths lie in developing people, managing structural and culture change, transforming business processes, systems-thinking, and delivering excellent housing and customer services. Kate aims to make a difference by inspiring people to work effectively together, exceed expectations and take pride in their work. Read Kate’s blog at katefarleyblog.wordpress.com and follow @katefcondev on Twitter.

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