Leadership is probably one of the greatest assets a person can have. Often we speak about leadership and management in the same breath and although there is no doubt that many successful managers are also great leaders, you don’t specifically have to be a manager to possess leadership skills.
In fact many team members within a team have excellent leadership skills in their own right and may have no people officially reporting to them. It is often said in high performing teams leadership is everyone’s responsibility within the team and each and every team member needs to try and lead by example to others.
For those who do have direct reports Leadership training can help in so many areas and particularly in the area of increasing the potential of the individuals and the team. We often speak about team and individual performance but leadership training will also clearly say that everything we do should be in some way related to trying to improve performance. As individuals or teams if we are working on something that does not make us better at what we do, we have to ask the question, why are we doing it?
When I think of leadership I often think of the great sports teams and particularly those that year after year somehow keep improving, even if it is only by a small amount. I firmly believe all teams have the capacity to improve performance but it is often the actions of a leader to use their ability to get a group of people to improve because they believe that is the right thing to do.
In a leadership training DVD I purchased about 12 months ago from a company in the USA, Someone mentioned in the film that there was a survey carried out in the USA regarding what was the greatest trait a leader could have, any ideas?
Well, the answer was that the one thing that stood out in all leaders was the word ‘integrity’ I like to think of integrity as doing the right thing for the right reason regardless of who is watching or no one is watching. It is all about doing the right thing!
As a leader we can increase the potential of our team in many ways, in a book entitled ‘The One Minute Manager ‘ it clearly states that FEEDBACK is the breakfast of champions. There is no doubt in my mind that this statement is as true today as the day it was written many years ago.
If my memory serves me right the book also talks about the importance of leadership and leadership training along with the importance of ‘catching someone doing something right’ and giving them positive feedback. All too often people look at areas that need to be corrected and of course that is important but the best leaders also work on the strengths of individuals and talk about what they have done right.
After all it makes sense if someone has done a good job and we have praised them for it, they are more likely to do the same the next time round.
Leaders and team leaders need to be role models for others, they need to be able to walk the walk as well as talk the talk. Leaders create the right communication channels for the team by creating an open and honest atmosphere where all team members can constructively discuss whether the team is on target or not as well as the overall performance of the team and individuals.
I recall on a leadership training course I mentioned the importance of having ‘team rules’ these are rules that each member of the team buys into and adheres too. As well as the rules leaders agree what is the situation if any team member breaks the rules.
It often amuses me when I see a new team leader just start working with a team before deciding and agreeing what the goals are, what the rules are and what the consequences are. By the way the important word in that sentence is agreeing. Leaders know that if they get agreement they have a far greater chance.
The top class leaders even go one step further, after agreeing the goal they then ask the individuals to reconsider and think about any things that may stop them from hitting that goal. If there is anything they then agree how they can remove this and then come back to the goal agreed for commitment. By doing this they are giving individuals and the team every chance to consider but then using that as a real commitment.
In other words:
- We have taken the time to look at what we want to achieve and agreed that
- We have also looked at blocks that may get in the way
- We have agreed what we can do to remove them blocks
- We now must achieve that goal as it is our goal
Diversity is another strength of good leaders, they understand everyone is different but just because they are different it does not mean they are not equal or indeed have an equal voice.
The leader will also understand agree and define what is the purpose of the team and what are the individuals responsibilities. The strange thing about leadership is that the clearer we communicate these things the easier it is to achieve them. I remember on a leadership training course someone once saying think of it like a game of golf, the ball is either in the hole or not in the hole. That does not mean if it isn’t in the hole we have done a bad job but the targets must be clearly defied and agreed.
Leaders also are clear about what is acceptable and what is not acceptable but the real good leaders who have received relevant leadership training can always do this and gain buy in while doing it.
I remember reading another book many years ago I think it was written by John Adair but I can’t be 100% sure about that. What I am sure about was the title of the book as it has stuck with me for many years, the title was ‘Learn to Lead so other follow willingly’ I think the word willingly is excellent as good leadership will definitely help the potential of the team.
Why do I say this? Well I am yet to meet any team who have such a strong relationship with their leader based on the areas we have covered above who have not been able to improve their potential or performance. Don’t get me wrong we need the team to be willing and able to perform the role they are employed to do, as the saying states ‘we can’t make silk purses out of sows ears’ but good leadership training can help the leader to get that extra bit out of individuals and teams and always remember that can be the difference between winning and losing. Finally remember that the horse who crosses the line first may only be a neck better than the second horse but the prize money could be 10 times greater.
Good leaders are those who can get over that finish line and improve the performances of even the weakest of teams by getting that little bit extra from each individual.