Leadership is all about responsibility, not about rank.  Leaders say with every action “You can rely on me, you can trust me”.  Leaders are the ones the team members turn to in a time of need, they are the ones creating a feeling of ‘team’, they are the ones we can rely on.  Are you that person?

Most of us have worked in that one, magical team.  Where things just go right, and keep going right.  An environment where our contributions are recognised, and where our learning is increased exponentially.  These are the High Performing Teams which have all the characteristics to create success, positivity and reward.

Leadership takes courage. (It is not easy!) It happens through time, where you start understanding that others have your back, and you develop the courage to lead.

Leadership requires vulnerability. (Definitely not easy!) In fact, being vulnerable can be outright dangerous in a non-trusting environment. Vulnerability however, creates trust with the team.

Leadership is a regime. (Stick with it!). A 2 day course is not going to create a leader out of anyone.  What is needed is the practice of daily monotonous tasks like brushing your teeth.  It is the accumulation of small consistent behaviors that creates trust.

Leadership is caring. (for real!). If you are going to ask someone how they are… Wait for the answer… Listen… be present!

We have gotten it so wrong in previous models, where we take a junior who is good at what he/she does, and we promote them. If they still do well in their new role, we promote them again, until they are promoted to management.  This person was very good at their job, but that does not equip them for leadership! Often what happens next, is either he/she gets fired, moved aside or we are stuck with a ‘bad’ manager, as we have never provided the necessary leadership skills.

How do we know we have a ‘bad’ leader in our midst?  The signs are simple:  Politics and Gossip… If either or both of these are present, you have a leadership issue in that team.  Notice a culture of CYA’s, blame-gaming or finger-pointing?  Lay that squarely at the feet of the poor leader. Recognise these signs in your team?  Time to take a look at what you can change.

Managers and leaders of the past have always been measured on delivery, but times are changing.  Leaders of the future will be providing support to people who are held accountable for delivery. The difference seems subtle, but the focus is a shift from hard, measurable delivery to softer people caring. As companies grow, and the teams get bigger, formal leaders often do not have a direct impact on the customer experience.  Leaders have to influence the people, who influence the people, who deal with the customer.

Get that impact wrong, and customer service goes down the drain, and you start seeing those CYA’s again.

“We can learn for our future from our past, because  regardless of technology 
or the speed of innovation,  people are still people”

Simon Sinek

According to Sinek, we need to create ‘family’ or a sense of ‘brothers and sisters’, rather than colleagues and co-workers.  How on earth do leaders do that? Sinek says it is achieved through love and devotion.  You, as the leader, have to honestly care for the people in your charge, and empower and trust them to honestly care for those in their charge, etc, etc.  The cycle of care and respect and trust starts with you, the leader, and you have the power to create the team, the vibe, the environment, and the results you choose.

We are highly evolved social beings, who all love to follow someone who ignites our passion, who appreciates and trusts us.  Loving your work is a right we all have! When we feel that our leader cares about us, and give us their trust, we tend to respond in kind – upwards, horizontally, and downwards.  Then ‘Business Purpose, Objectives and Vision’ becomes ‘MY Purpose, Objectives and Vision’.  Then my every action is in support of these. If you give your team something to believe in… something which can challenge them, where it is safe to make mistakes and learn… You are halfway there!

And frankly, as a leader, you might as well learn now! Millennials and born-free’s are entering our workforce and starting to make an impact.  We have seen the results of their demands with the Fees-must-Fall campaigns all over the country. Every person I speak to has a different view on this campaign, and on the behavior of the students, but all agree… We need to prepare them for the workplace, or prepare the workplace for them!

This is where you, our leader, come in…

Besides all the golden rules and everything you have already perfected, you now need a whole new set of skills to help this generation belong and flourish.  They are not simply ‘entitled’, wanting instant gratification and having unrealistic demands.  This is a generation raised on technology and social media, where poor performance was rewarded (think of participation medals).

As they enter the workforce, with demands like flexible working hours, work-life balance, and collaborative decision-making, they are about to turn the workplace on its head. And sadly, without the right guidance and support from caring leaders, potentially a very unsatisfied generation in the workplace. They need us, the teams and leaders of today, to help them create lasting relationships at work.

Let’s think about the second thing you need to be aware of – Technology!

Whether we are talking process automation, new systems, disruptions, or full robotics; we need to be aware and awake.  Aware of our competitors, our industry, and even what is happening on the fringes of our industry.  What can you do to help your team build their resilience and adaptability? How can you ensure that they are cross-skilled and multi-skilled and robust and agile?

People respond to their environment. Regardless of age, gender, race or role, we all perform better in a safe, trusting and positive environment.  If we want innovation, we need to provide a safe space for thinking, experimentation, and failure.

This is the first of a full series on practical tips and tricks for leaders. Together, we will create a workplace that stands the best chance of surviving what the future throws at us!

This article was initially inspired by a video I watched on YouTube by Simon Sinek. Credit to Mr Peter Drucker for his incredible foresight.  May they keep inspiring us!