As part of an interview I was asked for my thought on leadership and I thought I would share my answers with you.
1) Do you have any Leadership Practices, if so what are they?
I have developed my own Leadership Approach which has 3 stages
i) FAST, ii) FASTER, iii) FASTEST – which are acronyms.
We have to do them in sequence, especially if we are new to leadership.
And we have to start with FAST, which stands for Focus, Accountability, Simplicity and Transparency.
When we start out as leaders it’s all about achieving success; results are what will define whether we are good leaders or not, it’s great to be authentic, charismatic etc,
but we also need results. And by increasing our, an our teams, performance in the areas of FAST will increase our success.
Once we have been successful we need to make that success sustainable, and here we need to look at adding the ER to FAST to help us go FASTER.
We need to increase the Engagement of our teams and also the Recognition.
What we Recognise gets repeated, so as our teams achieve success then Recognise them to make the success sustainable.
We also need to work on engagement and this is where our authentic behaviour comes in, putting the team first, serving the team rather than serving ourselves. If we can’t that right then our success will be repeatable.
Once we have made our success sustainable and repeatable then we need to look at increasing our performance, continuous improvement should be the goal of any leader, and here we should be looking to go FASTEST.
Here we are adding Empowerment, Standardisation and Teamwork to our FAST approach.
Empowerment allows the teams to take ownership and look for ways to improve performance themselves, they know as much as anyone as to what it takes to be successful.
We also need to look at Standardisation. But this is not about taking any process and ensuring that everyone uses it. It’s about looking for best practices and encouraging their adoption, and then lastly we need to focus on teamwork. We need to have everyone working together increasing Collaboration and Cooperation, to ensure that best practices stick and are understood. When we do that then we can get the best level of performance in each and every area, and when we do that we will be going FASTEST – which is our ultimate goal.
And to achieve all this it does require us to be authentic in our behaviours, communicative, accountable, supportive, all of those qualities that great leaders have.
I also try to remember that I don’t do any of the work, the team does all the work, so take care of them, put them in the vest position to be successful.
And remember the customer pays our bills so give them the results they want and need.
2) How do you facilitate your own Leadership development?
I read a lot of leadership books, I try to get feedback on how I am doing. I have a lot of feedback on Linkedin, all of it good, so I can work on ensuring I continue to do what people like.
The things people don’t like is harder, because taking negative feedback or constructive feedback is not always easy, but I try and get some feel for that. I try to ask for it, but
I do need to get better at it.
I do find annual reviews interesting, because often they can be discussions about differing styles. I had one boss who felt I was too much in the details, and told me to step back,
I had another boss who told me I was too close to my people and I should be step back.
But these are just comments about style.
They wouldn’t be comfortable leading that way and wanted me to change, but for me those approaches we natural so I stuck with it.
3) What’s your greatest challenge as a leader and how do you deal with it?
The greatest challenge I have experienced was a major transition when we offshored our IT development work, we changed our helpdesk suppliers, and we migrated
all of out systems from one data centre provider to another.
This was like trying to perform a heart, liver, and lung transparent on the same day, and then trying to get the patient ready to go to work the following day.
Unfortunately, someone had told the business that there would be no drop in service quality during this transition.
As you can imagine we had a lot of service disruptions, and we had a 6 month period where we had outages almost every week, sometimes every day.
There was tremendous pressure to get things fixed, to provide leadership and bring things back to normal.
We just had to identify the issues, list them out, and then work on fixing all the root causes. It required us to have faith and build faith that we could work through it, many people wanted to quit and go back.
Ultimately we not only came through it, but we actually significantly improved performance, but it was very tough, very stressful for everyone involved, and it required me to be the calm head, even though I was coming in for a lot of criticism.
4) How do you assert authority when you need to?
Firmly just by saying thanks for all the input, this is decision we are going with.
Calmly, but firmly. I let people give their input, but ultimately its my call.
We don’t have to shout I’m in charge, when we do that we are actually showing we aren’t.
Usually by taking the approaches I do where I am approachable, fair and show I care, then people tend to accept my authority when I need to make decisions. Although by being accountable for the outcomes all the time, taking the criticism and giving the credit builds the right rapport that you don’t have to, also being successful helps too.
5) Describe a time you led which contradicted typical Leadership theory.
I am not sure what typical leadership theory because there are so many types of leadership style, many of them very popular, even styles such as command and control which I don’t like.
So what I can do is talk about a time when I led in a different way to the majority of people who I was working with, especially my boss and my peers.
I was working for a company where the leadership style was old school command and control, the leader issues dictates and the team is expected to follow, there was no relationship other than boss subordinate, which was working to some level, but I would say less than optimal.
The approach I took was to be approachable, connected, communicative and open.
I had an open door policy, something my boss would never go for, and I was often criticised for it.
But the response from the team was excellent, they really liked the connection, I also provided lots of positive feedback and recognition, even for everyday tasks.
This was something even HR told me was not a good move and I was asked to desist.
However, the team really responded so I continued in this vein and we managed to significantly improve performance. However, in my own reviews, even though the results were very well received, my leadership style was always criticised. There seemed to be no understanding of the connection between how I led and the results achieved, which always surprised me.
6) If you want to develop someone in a more junior position than you, how do you go about it?
I look to provide training in leadership for the entire department, if possible, leadership development is one of the key roles of the leader.Then I look to give people the opportunity to lead in their current position, empowering them, the more leaders we have the better the results will be.
But it has to be done in a supportive way.
I am not a fan of throw people in the deep end, because often it’s done without support, and thats the best way to damage peoples development.
We do learn form our mistakes, but we must put people in a position where they can be successful. Mistakes are ok, but we must not put people in positions where they will fail. Thats damaging.
7) How do you foster trust in the way you lead as quickly as possible/with minimal contact?
a) Give Trust.
If you trust people then others will come to trust you. I don’t believe trust is earned, I believe it is given, and sometime people lose it, but we should start by giving trust.
b) Be Accountable, when you show people that you are accountable, that you take full responsibility for any failures and look to address them professionally it builds trust very quickly.
The alternative destroys it very, very quickly, and once trust is gone it is practically impossible to get it back.
8) Are leaders always leading? When they stop leading, do they stop being leaders?
Leaders are always leading, people are watching you in everything you do.
Leadership is not a job title, its about what you do, who you are.
It’s about being supportive, helpful, putting people in a position to be successful.
If we stop focusing on others and then focus on ourselves, then we stop being leaders!
9) Why do you lead, is it worth it?
I lead because I believe I can make a difference. That I can help people get the results they are looking for.
Is it worth it? When you see the look in the eyes of people when they achieve something amazing then its truly worth it, there is no better feeling.
And thats why I do it, I want to help people and companies achieve their full potential.
10) Name a defining experience that has made you into the leader you are today.
I had a leadership conference, during the difficult transition I mentioned earlier, and I needed to increase cooperation and collaboration between my teams.
I had about a thousand staff, internals and externals, and there was a lot of frication between the different departments, and also between internals and externals.
To facilitate this, the conference was all about cooperation and collaboration, and when it started I decided that I was going to hug people, to show them that I cared about them,
and hoped that they would do the same with each other, because when we care about each other, teamwork increases naturally.
This was a huge success.
The atmosphere was electric and really turned things around and it was then that I truly understood, be the change you want to see.
Love you team, show them that, and this will really help you improve results.
And it feels good too 🙂
11) What advice would you give an aspiring leader?
Focus on the people, show them you care and take the FAST Approach, and you will be successful!
Take on the difficult projects, the jobs that no one else wants, that what will differentiate you, it will show you that you put others first and are interested more in doing the right thing, and helping rather than doing the right thing for you.