12 February 2018
What does it take to be a great leader?
Without knowing the answer to this question, how can you possibly know how to build leadership qualities in your team?
For me, leadership hinges on the ability to listen and make positive decisions that amplify the success of the people you manage. You have to listen to the people around you.
When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. The team at the coal face – those speaking with your clients day in day out, the people producing your product – are the people who know what clients need, how to bring efficiency and ensure the rest of the team are happy.
That insight is why it is so valuable to grow a leadership team from within a business. Author and business coach, Jim Collins, studied the leading firms in the US for his book Good to Great. In the 6,000 articles and more than 2,000 pages of interview transcripts it took to write the book, he found that all of the thriving businesses had grown their leadership teams from within their businesses. He called these leaders, Level 5 Leaders.
Level 5 Leaders are the ultimate: the absolute dream leadership team. They are humble but driven to do what’s best for the company.
Growing the leadership team
Ultimately, a leader really needs to understand culture, that’s why it is incredibly difficult to bring in a leader from outside. When you develop a leader from within a business, the culture in ingrained within them. They’ve grown with the business, they’ve shaped the culture in their own way too.
When you bring in someone externally at a senior position, often they try to change the culture and interpret it in their own way. That being said, we’ve managed on a couple of occasions to successfully bring a leader in from outside the business.
How? One of the first things that I do when looking for a new leader is to take people – external or internal recruits – out of their comfort zone. Going to the pub isn’t enough! You need to be completely out of your comfort zone, here you see who the natural leaders are. When you’re climbing to the top of a mountain in a blowing gale and driving rain, you see who the genuinely supportive people are.
Anyone can be a leader. Leadership can undoubtedly be learned but there are certainly elements of it that come more naturally to certain personalities. We’ve seen this time and again at UKFast. There are people who develop at their own pace, tackling every challenge that comes at them, and become leaders. Equally there are those who seek out challenges, who drive their development forward and also become leaders, but usually in a shorter timeframe.
Mentoring is an incredibly effective tool when growing a leadership team. Taking some time out of the office, going out for dinner or a coffee with each other and putting the world to rights. They say that the best way to learn is to teach, and it’s true. Mentoring quickly becomes a mutually beneficial relationship.
I’d love to hear your experiences of growing your leadership team. What challenges have you faced? How did you overcome them?