With the New Year upon us, I have been thinking how senior executives are going to lead us into 2013. Will they be keeping their heads down and staying out of the firing line or will they be really contributing to the future of the organisation by demonstrating true leadership?
We know what is needed for economic growth and commercial success but we also know that some will not always want to raise their heads above the parapet. Is it that they are just ‘playing safe’ or is it that they have their minds on their own individual role in the business and that they forget that a part of that role is to show leadership to their teams.
Teams look to their leaders for clear direction and focus, and also for motivation to get the job done. Motivation can sometimes get lost and it is the test of a real leader that he or she is able to motivate and inspire their teams on a daily basis.
So why does one choose to become a leader? For some it is the inner challenge and being prepared to come out of their comfort zone. For others, they may have been given no alternative by their organisations but to take over the responsibility of managing a team although their heart is not in it. This can certainly be problematic if they had not received any people management training as we mustn’t forget that managing people doesn’t always come naturally to everyone.
So what are some of the characteristics of a leader?
A real leader has to be visible at all times and that does mean that they are often exposed to pressure which can make them feel isolated. Particularly in tough economic times, they will be stretched to their full capacity as a decision maker, often 24/7.
Whether things go right or wrong, if you are a leader then you are accountable. You will be known for both your failures and your successes. When things go wrong, it is vital for a leader to acknowledge the error and accept the learning to ensure that it doesn’t repeat itself. And likewise, when things go right, advertise it! Celebrate the success with your team.
Difficult decisions are not easy to make. You may have to discharge, or demote someone who has been with the company for many years and the way that you deal with that situation will be observed and remembered by everyone for a very long time. It is how you manage and implement a decision that is important. You may not be popular but the role of a leader is not to win a popularity contest — it is to make and take the correct decision for the, sometimes long-term, future of the company or organisation.
Being a role model
A leader should strive to be a role model to his/her team. As a team leader you are always being watched and your actions observed and commented upon. That means that you need to be proud of your behaviour because others will copy it. If you are hungry for success, then this will inspire your team.
It is not only good for your organisation for you to pass on your skills to others but it is also of great personal satisfaction to see another human being grow in this way: to be more innovative and creative and to take your vision forward so that the best of them may end up being leaders themselves, one day.
Are You the Next Leader?
If you want, and can handle the stimulation, excitement and responsibility of leadership, then this is the role for you. But you have to want it to the point where you live, eat and breathe it every day. There can be no half measures. Leadership is the full-time role of displaying qualities that are more than being just a manager. A manager, supervises — a leader takes others forward and onwards to achieve greater success.
Is it satisfying? You bet it is! To enrich others and to see their individual growth is an extraordinarily rewarding challenge that never fails to inspire those who empower and those who are empowered.
I wish a successful 2013 to our new leaders!
— The author is a BBC Guest Broadcaster and motivational speaker. She is CEO of an international stress management consultancy and her new book, ‘Show Stress Who’s Boss!’ is available in all good bookshops.