The leader is in charge. The leader is the boss. Follow the leader. These all imply top-down command. They suggest that authority resides with one individual. We see this in many walks of life – the team captain makes the decisions and everyone on the team abides by them. An important learning for me during the program, and a shift in my viewpoint, has been that leadership is not necessarily about authority, but more about influence. You do not need to be the boss / manager / captain to have influence. But you do need to be clear on your values, willing to buy into a shared vision and contribute to achieving stated objectives. Therefore, potentially anybody, in any position within an organisation or hierarchy can lead. As a side point, the oft-stated notion that ‘leaders are born’ has been totally dispelled by this program – so many of the skills that allow you to have influence can be readily picked up, and developed with practice.
Prior to this program, I thought effective communication was about being a good speaker and writer. A good leader can rally the troops with a rousing speech, inspire a team member with a well-crafted email, or outline a task so that there is no confusion or doubt. Of course, being able to articulate a message clearly and succinctly is an important skill. However, what has become hugely apparent to me in this program is that listening is the key to effective communication. Hearing what is said (and not said) is vital for effective interactions. This was reinforced at the Brisbane node’s recent conflict workshop – we learned that carefully listening to the words people use, and responding to these, is integral to communicating well with others (and avoiding or resolving conflict!). It is not as easy as it sounds, and is a skill that definitely requires practice and focussed efforts.
A good leader has a well mapped-out plan, and guides those beneath him / her in carrying out the plan. Structure and consistency are important for effective performance, and a leader is responsible for facilitating and perpetuating these within a team / organisation. Certainly, an effective leader must be able to manage their time well, and develop strategies for the successful undertaking of a task / completion of a project / implementation of a game plan. But some other points have emerged that I had previously not considered, and I think align with (or maybe deviate away from?) the theme of ‘being organised’ – for example, the ability to think outside the box, seek change and create a vision – and engender support for these from those around you. Also, organisation (and structure) could in some instances be considered to be synonymous with inflexibility – the ability to evolve with (and foresee) change is definitely an important attribute. Finally, a noteworthy point I have taken away from the program is that the way I approach organisation and structure (with respect to delivering a task, leading a team etc.) may be completely different to that of someone else. This was clearly illustrated to me via an activity we participated in during the leadership training (see below – planning a holiday). This exercise highlighted the importance of recognising that there are different ways of doing the same thing, and that I shouldn’t default to the stance that my way is the right way / the only way. Being conscious of different styles and approaches will not only make it easier to work with others, but will undoubtedly expose you to new skills and techniques.
An example of (extreme) different approaches when planning a holiday (depending on which side you align with, the other may seem crazy)…..
- has all accommodation booked six months in advance
- prepares a day-by-day itinerary down to the hour - what sites will be visited at what times
- packs two weeks in advance
- researches all the facts and figures before they go
- covers every possibly weather contingency clothing-wise
- takes a few spares of everything (excess baggage doesn't cost that much!)
Hit the Ground Running
- book first night and go from there
- possibly pick up a copy of Lonely Planet at the airport
- pack the night before
- soak it in when you are there
- take a few clothes and pick up more if needed
- do I even need checked baggage?
……but the end result of a great holiday is hopefully the same!