Successful leaders know how to lead themselves
We all have leadership potential, it’s just a matter of knowing where to start, says Philomena Hayward
“So what do you do?” How many times have you been asked that question at a networking event or conference? And how do you reply? Often it’s with a job title — “I’m a surveyor/director/engineer” — and that certainly gives the questioner some idea about us, but it does not reflect a key part of the job — leadership.
Whether you recognise it or not, if you have responsibility for people, either as their direct line manager, project manager, or as part of a client or supplier relationship, then you are a leader and those people are seeing you as such. They are taking their cue from you about how to behave and what is important. People watch their leaders far more closely than most leaders will ever realise. They do what their leader does long before they do what their leader says. You could call it “unconscious” leadership. But so what, you might say, why does it matter?
Leadership matters because success is impossible without it. Virtually every great accomplishment has effective leadership at its core. A current example is the successful delivery of the Olympic Park on time and on budget. All the way through the process, from the bid to completion, the right leadership team has been in place with a clear vision, with the right people leading effectively. The success of the project is being hailed as an example for UK business to follow.
Furthermore, research shows that most workers leave jobs due to poor leadership and management. Another study showed that 70-80% of employee perceptions of their organisations were directly related to their opinions of their boss. In this sense you have a lot of power as a leader. The question is: do you “consciously” use your influence in a positive way that supports you and your team in achieving success, or do you “unconsciously” let things happen?
Becoming a leader starts with you. Society often thinks leaders are born not made, but the reality is we all have leadership potential so getting to know yourself better is the starting point to developing that potential.
It is not about a model of ideal leadership that feels like an ill-fitting suit. To be an effective leader you need to know how to lead yourself. If you can lead yourself, you can lead others. If you are not engaged then the people around you won’t be, so what do you need to feel motivated?
If you are someone who is hard on yourself and does not celebrate success, then you will be like that with your team. For some individuals that’s fine but for others it could be a real demotivator. So by understanding what is most important to you, your true leadership qualities will start to emerge. That self-awareness will in turn give you greater insight into the people around you and the reality is that we all have to work with others to deliver performance.
A poll conducted by Gallup asked more than 10,000 people what the most influential leaders in their lives had contributed to them and from the results it identified four basic needs from leaders: trust, compassion, stability and hope.
Perhaps these aren’t matters we consider day to day, but they are nevertheless important because they put the focus on understanding what your people need. Ultimately, to be influential you must get to know your people. You have to ask questions, listen and engage if you want to lead.
Philomena Hayward runs Hayward Development Partnership. She has more than 20 years’ experience as a leadership coach and is currently a leadership training facilitator for teams that will manage the Olympic events. www.hdpartnership.co.uk