Behaviours, not destiny, are the tools of leadership – as others have noted in this blog. Specific behaviours that help us unite people and draw them toward a common vision, or even just where to have lunch. This isn’t to say we need to change our personality to lead. Sure, some types of leadership behaviours are linked to some personalities, but leading doesn’t mean leaving our old selves behind. So far, many of the CEED leadership blogs have focussed on leading ourselves; undoubtedly the core of leadership. Payal thought about leading in a group and emphasized that we can’t do it alone: at the end of the day it is relationships that allow us to lead.
That dirty word. Often, we of a scientific persuasion are utterly terrified by the thought of talking to another human being. Utterly terrified. (Well I am). But to lead is to lead people, to make big changes is to inspire others to make those changes with us. We need relationships. We need that dirty word: a network. Perhaps this conjures up images of used car salesmen in nasty suits, or nonspecific executives paying too much for lunch while exchanging pale nimbus business cards and doing “a deal”. One recoils in horror at the very thought. But that’s bollocks; we network naturally – it’s just a fancy way of describing people we know and could ask about things. We all have a network, but we’ll always need to work with new people whatever our life direction. The more diverse a of people group we know, the better equipped we are to solve the world’s problems. But how do we — especially we who are terrified near to the point of physical illness at the thought of having to talk to another human being we don’t know well — go about networking. Simple – say “hello”.
Other people are like snakes: they don’t usually bite and they’re probably more scared of us than we are of them. When we push ourselves to actually speak to people, we’re almost always pleased by the results. (— People are fascinating; think of the endless variety of thoughts we have — !) For some of use, it’s easy to get wound up in avoiding awkward social situations, but most people, most of the time, are happy to talk to us about their work and ours. The more people we can turn to, the easier it is to find help. And when they do help — say “thanks”.
We’re sounding a bit like our mothers now. It’s a small thing to thank people, but easy to forget. It costs us less than the price of a free coffee, and leaves a much better aftertaste. Did someone do a good job? Tell them so—encourage the heart! Encouraged hearts make inspired people, and inspired people make changes. Want to see some mad gratitude and encouragement? Check out this video of Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, that the CEED leadership cohort were shown during leadership training last year. How does he begin? With thanks.
We’re all terrified of awkwardness and rejection, but we can’t afford to be. Let’s get out there and say hello, and then say thanks.