17 September 2017
Simon Sinek says: “Leaders are in a position of power, but those who lead inspire us.”
What does it take to be what ‘Good to Great’ author, Jim Collins called ‘level five leaders’ like Sir Alex Ferguson, Ray Crock or Walt Disney?
I have been learning for many years what it takes to be an extraordinary leader and help others to become these exceptional managers. Over the years, I’ve seen five mistakes crop up time and time again. Here are five mistakes to look out for if you want to be an inspirational leader.
Leadership and Feedback
Giving feedback is an extraordinarily sensitive task. Have you ever noticed how much people thrive when they’re praised, and how negatively constant criticism can affect them?
I have a very strict policy across all of my businesses when it comes to leadership and feedback: if you are giving anything other than positive feedback, do it in private. There’s no excuse for criticising someone in a room full of people – it only causes embarrassment and it isn’t a culture I want to see in my businesses. Instead, take it offline. Have a chat. Often when someone isn’t performing as well as they had been, it’s because something has happened in their home life. Rather than being criticised, they may need a chat and some extra support from you as a leader.
There is nothing more stifling or frustrating for a team member than being micromanaged. I have long been a believer of ‘upside down management’. This flips the traditional management structure on its head and put the teams working with clients at the top of the tree, not the managers. Who else is better placed to know what our clients need? These teams hold the relationships with clients and speak to them every day – of course they know how to meet their needs better than managers or the board.
Micromanaging also puts an extraordinary level of strain on you as a manager – could that time and energy be better spent elsewhere? Why not channel is into training, looking at the bigger business picture and how to support and grow your teams?
Often it is the more bullish characters that put themselves forward for management positions – the people who shout the loudest! Power is their driving force. But real leaders are the ones who sit back and take consider the needs of the team over their own, rather than letting power go to their heads.
Humility is an essential trait of a Level Five Leader. Level Five Leaders– a term coined by Jim Collins – are people ‘who blend genuine personal humility with intense professional will’. Being a leader isn’t about achieving personal greatness, it’s about leading the team and business to greatness.
If you are an empowering leader, someone who wants to help their team to grow and develop, you have to accept that mistakes happen. Part of empowering someone means giving them the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them. I had that freedom when I began my entrepreneurial journey and learned some of my most valuable lessons – often about leadership – making mistakes and evaluating what went wrong.
As a leader you have to trust your team to fulfil the roles that you set them. Equally it’s important to hold your hands up sometimes and admit if you’ve made the wrong call. The simple act of admitting your mistakes helps you to engage with your team on a human level. You’re not someone in a power suit behind a closed door. You set the example for how to learn from a mistake.
Leading from the back
Finally there is a myth that I need to dispel. We often hear that leadership is about ‘leading from the front’ as the best management technique and whilst there is merit here, I think this as a management style is a misnomer. It should be called leading from the back. Being behind the team is a far more effective way of leading – much in the same way as if you’re a parent trying to teach a toddler to walk you will inevitably try to get the child walking in front of you. You can see if they fall or need support; how would you see that if you were in front of them? When you lead from the back you can watch your team’s progress and you can help anyone struggling or lagging behind.
Do you have any mistakes to add to the list? Leave them in the comments below.