Five Ways to Lead
Recently I was invited to a small company in south Wales which I have known for many years. The business was being presented with a Queen’s Award for Enterprise [Innovation], not just for the first but for the second time. Despite operating in a difficult market the company has managed to embrace some cutting-edge technology and subsequently is enjoying a degree of success. What struck me on that day of celebration was how impressive the MD was in choosing to pay tribute to every single member of the company. His speech, on receiving the award, showed how highly he valued each employee, attributing the innovation of his company to their collective contribution. In a very self- deprecating way, he deliberately turned the spotlight away from his own personal accomplishments and onto his staff. It was a key moment of strong leadership. Yet it was a style with which we are not always familiar and even comfortable given that the traditional view of a leader is one who is bold, has the monopoly on knowledge and leads from the front. But in contrast, whatever approach this MD was adopting, it was clearly working given his company’s success. That got me thinking about what it takes to be a leader in today’s complex world.
Stepping up to the plate
In the workplace or in our social and family lives, we are often required to step up to the plate and take on a leadership role, whether we like it or not. We may have to make a tough decision, break a deadlock or deal with a crisis and these things can be tricky. Often we see taking on this role as problematic. It is someone else’s responsibility and often you hear the phrase ‘he or she is a born leader….but that’s not me’ and we are too quick to rule ourselves out of the frame. But equally at times of crisis or trauma, leadership comes from the most unexpected quarters. Who would have thought, for example, that one lone but determined schoolgirl, Greta Thunberg, could inspire and lead a movement to tackle one of the most pressing problems of our age? In our daily lives we come across many different leaders, each leading in different ways, often adapting their approaches to the circumstances which arise. Indeed, Karen and Henry Kimsey–House, founders of the Co-Active Training Institute, define Leadership very simply and straightforwardly : It is about being responsible for your own world. Their model defines leadership in 5 ways:
Leader in Front
This is the most easily recognisable model and is perhaps the most traditional. The Leader in Front has a clear sense of purpose and direction but brings people with her and values their input.
If you think about living with integrity and living your life whilst adhering to your personal values, then you are the Leader Within. You strive to be the best version of yourself and become a role model to others in your workplace or community. Mahatma Ghandi’s instruction to ‘be the change that you wish to see in the world ’ sums this up perfectly.
There is always someone you would describe as the backbone of any workplace or organisation. Often this person’s aim is not to try to look good or get ahead. This is the Leader Behind and she/he focuses on providing whatever is needed to make the team a success. This type of leader is committed to empowering and calling forth the talents of others by believing in them.
The Leader Beside model is about two people working together, both bringing their own strengths and skills to the table but importantly sharing a commitment that drives the workplace or organisation forward. This dynamic partnership can accommodate different views, disagreements and responsibilities but the shared vision is what holds it all together successfully.
Leader in the Field
And finally the type of person who always looks beyond the immediate situation and identifies the big picture is the Leader in the Field. He or she may not necessarily be involved in the nuts and bolts of an organisation but is an essential element in noticing and taking responsibility for the wider impact.
An Authentic leader?
As a career coach I sometimes work with people who are called upon to become leaders in their organisations. Often they feel they haven’t the confidence to do so or even unwittingly may adopt an approach which is alien to them. But leadership is multidimensional and everyone has the capacity to lead. Just as we are all unique human beings, we can also embrace the leadership model which is more authentic to us and in turn can be an inspiration to others.
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