Leadership is more than just a political buzzword

Photo courtesy of linux_foundation(CC Attribution)

You’ve probably noticed there’s a lot of talk about (and focus on) leadership at the minute. Since the snap election was announced, party leaders of all colours and beliefs have been quick to declare themselves as a strong leader, who knows what it takes to run the country.

In politics, it’s not always how good a leader you are that counts. When voters put their little X in the box they usually vote based on the party they prefer and not necessarily because of who the leader of that party is. There are exceptions of course – as happened over the pond not so long ago – but you could argue that politics is unique because it doesn’t always matter who the leader of a party is for people to vote for them.

In the real world outside of Parliament, it rarely works like this. What you do and say as a leader does matter, and successful organisations really understand the importance of strong leadership. Having the right person at the helm who knows what it takes to deal with everything modern workplaces have thrown at them is vital.

There are several tacks you can take to establish yourself as strong leader. You could follow the approach of well-known and respected (in most cases) CEOs like Richard Branson and Bill Gates who give the appearance of being great blokes with a fantastic sense of humour who just happen to run hugely successful organisations. Having this approach means you can sometimes cover up your weaknesses and shortcomings, but it’s not for everyone.

The other approach is to be a brilliant leader without the fanfare. A great example of this is Steve Ells, CEO of Chipotle Mexican Grill, who was named CEO of the Year in 2014 for his company’s commitment to sustainability, and use of organic, locally-sourced ingredients. You’ve probably not heard of him, but his leadership is right up there with Messrs Branson and Gates.

It’s unlikely most of you reading this are in a position to wholeheartedly follow one style or another. And that’s perfectly fine. Leadership can be a difficult skill to master and very few of us are born to do it naturally. To do it effectively, you need to learn and fine-tune lots of different skills over many years.

So let’s have a look at what some of these skills are. It’s a pretty exhaustive list, so we’ll concentrate on the most important ones. You can also count how many of these, if any, the current crop of party leaders display (probably not too many) if you want.

  • Focus 

– the best leaders are less distracted than the not so good ones and know where they’re headed. They keep their focus all of the time.

  • Transparency 

– don’t wear a mask as a leader. Being open, honest and transparent builds trust. 

  • Integrity 

– a bit like the previous point, acting with integrity shows you’re real and honest. 

  • Passion 

– don’t love what you’re doing? You’ll never be a great leader if you don’t have a huge passion for it. 

  • Innovation 

– great leaders know not to stand still. They have an open mind and are always looking to move their organisations forward. 

  • Decisiveness 

– believe in your decisions and be firm in them. No great leader was ever wishy-washy in their decision making. 

  • Communication 

– telling people in your organisation what’s going on really empowers them. No-one likes to be left in the dark. 

  • Accountability 

– this is a biggie, and we’ve written about it here recently. Don’t be afraid to take accountability when something goes wrong, as it inevitably will at some point.

As we said, these skills and traits are not even the tip of the smallest iceberg, and you’ll be able to come up with loads more yourself. Leadership’s more than a buzzword to be wheeled out by politicians to grab your vote. It’s a tricky balancing act where you need keep lots of disparate groups happy, drive production forward, maintain decent profit levels, and be seen to run an ethical organisation, as well as of other things we could name.

It could be worse though – you could be an MP!

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