4.1.2 Developing your Leadership Capabilities

As a leader you must know yourself. Know your own strengths and weaknesses, so that you can build the best team around you.

Be the example you want to set. Some leaders lead by example and are very “hands on”, others are more distanced and let their people do it. Whatever you choose, your example is paramount . The way you work and conduct yourself will be the most you can possibly expect from your people.

If you set low standards for yourself, you are to blame for low standards in your people.

Plan carefully with your people how you will achieve shared aims. You may have to redefine or develop your own new aims and priorities. Leadership can be daunting for many people simply because no-one else is issuing the aims – leadership often means you have to create your own from a blank sheet of paper. Set and agree clear standards. Keep the right balance between “doing yourself” and enabling others “to do”.

Build teams. Ensure you look after people and that communications and relationships are good. Select good people and help them to develop. Develop people and give them opportunities for new experiences. Agreeing objectives and responsibilities that will interest and stretch them and always support people while they strive to improve and take on extra tasks. Follow the rules about delegation closely – this process is crucial. Ensure that your managers are applying the same principles. Good leadership principles must cascade down through the whole organisation. This means that if you are leading a large organisation you must check that the processes for managing, communicating and developing people are in place and working properly.

Communication is critical. Listen, consult, involve and explain “why” as well as “what” needs to be done.

“Praise loudly, blame softly.”  Follow this maxim and you will rapidly earn respect and trust among your people. Always give your people the credit for your achievements and successes. Never take the credit yourself – even if it’s all down to you, which would be unlikely anyway. You must however take the blame and accept responsibility for any failings or mistakes that your people make.

Never publicly blame another person for a mistake. Their failing is your responsibility – an effective leader will focus on the problem not the person.

Take time to listen to and really understand people. Walk the job. Ask and learn about what people do and think, and how they think improvements can be made. Download our quick guide to listening.

Accentuate the positive. Express things in terms of what should be done, not what should not be done. If you accentuate the negative, people are more likely to veer towards it

Have faith in people to do great things – given space and time, everyone can achieve more than they hope for. Provide people with relevant interesting opportunities, with proper measures and rewards and they will more than repay your faith.

Take difficult decisions bravely and be truthful and sensitive when you implement them.

Constantly seek to learn from the people around you – they will teach you more about yourself than anything else. They will also tell you 90% of what you need to know to achieve your business goals.

Embrace change, but not for change’s sake. Begin to plan your own succession as soon as you take up your new post, and in this regard, ensure that the only promises you ever make are those that you can guarantee to deliver.

As a leader, your main priority is to get the job done, whatever the job is. You make things happen by:

  • knowing your objectives and having a plan how to achieve them
  • building a team committed to achieving the objectives
  • helping each team member to give their best efforts

Leadership is, without doubt, mostly about behaviour, especially towards others. People who strive for these things generally come to be regarded and respected as a leader by their people.

Now download the Personal Self-Assessment Tool to evaluate your own leadership style, and ask your colleagues to complete the Shared Version so that you can compare your responses with theirs. Of course, you can ask your senior team members to complete the exercise for themselves as well!

Once you’ve used the Self-Assessment Tool, please complete the Development Plan using the following template.

Personal Leadership Development Plan

The purpose of this Personal Development Leadership Plan is to help you build on the leadership assessment exercise you undertook to compare your leadership self-assessment to the assessments of others in your workplace. This document will help you to reflect on the results and create a plan of action to strengthen and develop your leadership skills in the areas you have identified as being key to your success as a leader.

Be inspired

Each of the three case studies discussed below illustrates different ways in which shared and distributed leadership can stimulate and drive workplace innovation. In each organisation, workplace innovation was instigated by a newly appointed Chief Executive and led to greater employee empowerment and innovation. Yet the three journeys of transformation were very different, reflecting the very different contexts in which each organisation operates:

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Forum topic: Share your experience of leaders who encourage others to take the lead!

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