THURSDAY THOUGHTS! - What Drives Leadership Success?

Posted by | February 28, 2013 | Thursday Thoughts | No Comments

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I’ve had the great privilege of being able to spend 2 days away with a leadership team this week.  The body is brand new and this is the very first opportunity they have created to get together and learn more about each other in their most important task of delivering great things for their local community.

Individually, each were leaders in their field, but the past couple of days required a shared vision and agreement on what were their 5 most pressing priorities, from a very complex and crowded landscape.  They are doing things which have never been asked of them before – truly scary territory!

It was a big ask.  Only those who have ever been involved in similar levels of federations could possibly understand the gravity of what we were asking.  But they did it!  A combination of remarkable thinking, sharing, compromising and open mindedness created new sorts of leaders from them all this week.  Leaders with a clear focus, renewed energy, and tapped enthusiasm for making things better for their local population.

It has left me feeling humble to have been part of helping create this fine body of folk, and as ever, reflective as to how we got to this position.  I think we have taken 5 key steps in the past 2 years:

1.         Learn from mistakes:

There were many years of experience in the room this week and the brain power being brought to the fore, to make more complex calculations and conclusions than any calculator or computer could muster, displayed the many journeys of personal development undertaken to date.  Some had come a long way, others had just begun (whether they knew it or not!)

To be a good leader, you have to take calculated risks, and you will most certainly make mistakes along the way.  But can you admit to them and learn from them, and most importantly, not repeat them?

“Success comes from good decisions.  Good decisions come from experience.  Experience comes from making bad decisions”

2.         Lead by example:

The old adage of “do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t cut the mustard in today’s fast moving business world.   You have to hold yourself accountable before holding others to account.  If you want to be a leader, people notice what you do, what you say, how you behave and someone will want to aspire to be you – so it matters!

“Do what has to be done. Do it when it has to be done.  Do it as well as you can.  Do it this way all of the time.”

3.         Put others needs first:

Compassion and empathy are extremely important to quality leadership.  It is absolutely impossible to be selfish and be an effective leader at the same time.  If it doesn’t come naturally, then practice and practice and practice until it becomes learned behaviour.

“No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care!”

 4.         Have confidence:

Confidence comes from a simple ABC.  A for attitude; B for behaviour; C for competence.  The magic mix of all three produces a simple scenario of others having confidence in you.  You have complete control over all three, and all three are visible to everyone around you.  So beware!

Given that a simple ABC is all anyone asks of you, why do so many think they know it already?  A true leader ALWAYS invests time and effort in sharpening their own ABC.  It is easy to spot those who do not: there is usually a degree of arrogance, cockiness and above all, a distinct lack of insight in how others are seeing them.  Perfect specimen of rose tinted spectacle wearer.

“Don’t ever take a shot you aren’t totally confident you are going to make.”

5.         Set a high standard:

If you truly do everything to the best of your ability, then you can expect it from those you lead.  If you are always on time, always work hard, and always put your heart and soul into what’s necessary, then you can expect colleagues to do the same.  A good leader will motivate those around them, without even knowing it.  It will be second nature to them because they actually see it as their day job!   So set the bar high and lead them to it.

“It is a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you often get it!”

 These are just some of the reflections I’ve had about this particular group.  The future is looking rosy for them.  Continuing to display these traits will dictate their ongoing success.


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Sharon Davidson
Organisational development professional specialising in personal, team and whole organisation improvement. Full range of OD tools and techniques available including: Belbin team role analysis; learning style inventories; 360 degree feedback; cultural assessments; personality psychometrics; strategic planning and workshop facilitation. (This list is not exhaustive!)

Improvement is everyone's concern: +44 1550 720902 will start that process today.

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