7 June 2018
Imagine this. You’re waiting for a meeting to present your ideas. You’re sitting with one of your senior colleagues chatting through your plans before heading into the room. Working around the table, the senior leader takes their opportunity to speak and shares all of your ideas as their own!
I’ve had that exact experience in a meeting room, long before the days of UKFast. It was soul-destroying. I left feeling demotivated, embarrassed and frustrated.
The manager taking my ideas and the credit for them is a prime example of how not to be a great leader. It may seem obvious but I’d bet there are many more of you out there who have experienced exactly what I did in that boardroom.
I often talk about what it takes to be an incredible leader, and often reference Level 5 leaders. This is a concept in Jim Collins’ book Good to Great. These leaders combine ferocious resolve and will with humility and a tendency to pass on credit while assigning blame to themselves. The keyword there: humility.
It’s easy to be a tempestuous character: to lead by shouting and micromanaging. This is a behaviour we’ve seen promoted with the likes of The Apprentice both here with Alan Sugar and in the US with Trump.
It’s a dangerous behaviour because real, inspirational, great leaders are very different.
The secret of great leadership
Being humble doesn’t just mean not taking credit for teamwork – or in some cases where it simply isn’t due. It also means accepting responsibility. Whilst it could be easy to apportion blame to your team, to individuals, to other leaders – to pass the buck, it’s actually those who shoulder the blame who produce the best results through their teams.
It is often found that mistakes are made as a result of poor leadership. Poor direction, no motivation or lack of clarity are prime causes of poor outcomes in business and they’re so easily avoided. Taking an element of responsibility – it’s not about blame – for the team’s mistakes or shortcomings is essential.
Equally, mistakes are extraordinarily valuable learning experiences and whilst you can pass on lessons learned from making your own mistakes to others, nothing compares to learning those lessons first-hand.
As a leader you are never the finished article. By our very nature, we’re always learning and growing, and that’s all part of humility. It requires a certain type of openness, but once you flick this switch, anything is possible.