ITL #489 The right foot: how can a leader succeed?6 months, 2 weeks ago
A complete leader knows how to help others, so that they can shine. By Katie Spreadbury.
The way that a leader shows up and the tone that they set has a huge influence on their ability to nurture and inspire their teams over the long haul. In fact, the best leaders always think ahead to how they want to create the space that allows people to work hard and shine. At Vested our approach to leadership is very much about enabling our teams to be at their best and that’s where we focus our time and energy.
The benefits of strong teams are practically immeasurable, but the most important ones are obvious: great results, camaraderie, and progress for everyone involved. A strong team is one where every member feels necessary and safe, encouraged to contribute and empowered to challenge the status quo when necessary.
A good team experience improves the lives of every member, including those who are fortunate enough to find life-long friends amongst their colleagues. I consider myself very lucky to have had some amazing colleagues over the years, many of whom I’m still in touch with and also have come back to work with again.
By contrast, we've all experienced what it's like to be on a bad team: it’s a nightmare. From the stress building up before a pitch or the pressure to meet a client deadline, PR teams don’t always exist in situations that allow them to thrive.
I have experienced teams that weren’t a place for me to thrive during my career and looking back I’ve learnt so much from those situations about the kind of colleague and leader I want to be. That’s why, for leaders, it’s crucial to prepare and show up right, with a willingness to adapt and evolve as you go.
Just how can a leader succeed? It comes down to knowing yourself well. You’ve got to be willing to answer big questions about yourself with courage and candor:
What do you really enjoy? Where do you really shine? What is your greatest source of energy? When have you empowered others? How do others feel receiving your guidance? When have you failed to be true to yourself as a leader?
And don’t just ask yourself these questions, explore these themes and topics more deeply. Take personality tests, ask around, and inquire about your leadership style the same way that you might look into someone else’s.
By getting the full picture—from others, and from regular reviews, 360s, mentorships, coaches, and even the feedback of trusted friends—the smart leader arms him or herself with the greatest power you can have: self-knowledge.
Building a culture of trust is essential to ensuring that true and honest feedback conversations can be had. For me, a very long standing and hugely positive relationship with my CEO (who I am now lucky to count as a friend) has been strengthened by several much needed doses of honesty and the consistency of guidance that has always been centered on supporting me to be the best I can be. I consider myself lucky to have great friends and colleagues who I know and trust to always give me an honest opinion…even if they know it won’t be easy to hear.
Self-knowledge is everything. It allows a strong leader to leverage strengths, bridge weaknesses, and help those around them to do the same.
Often, where you excel and struggle can have a ripple effect on your team members. By leaning into what you do well and by practicing training and acceptance in areas that you are less strong, you can increase the trust of those around you. It also enables the strengths of others within the team to find their balance, your weakness will be another’s strength. Leveraging this is an opportunity to push the whole team forward.
Leading by example is great, but it's never enough. A complete leader knows how to help others, so that they can shine. Some shine when they feel empowered to lead their own subgroup. Others shine when they know they have the power to address the larger assembly.
Being able to read the goals of others, and to help them reach those goals, is where real leadership begins. For me, having very regular catch ups with the team is essential, helping me to know and understand what they personally are really wanting to achieve with their careers. It also enables me to stretch them, ask difficult questions and encourage them to challenge themselves as I know they can achieve everything they want to and more.
Too much time and distance between conversations doesn’t create the momentum that enables me to really support the team. Some of the most rewarding work I’ve done has been in supporting colleagues as they grow, progress and really see the areas where they stand out. Nudging and watching others grow in confidence and skill is the most rewarding experience as a leader.
Lessons to go
Looking back on my own career, I can’t say any attempt at leadership was a complete loss, because I always learned and survived. Even in the worst of circumstances, I discovered tools which helped me to up my game for the next time.
Every team is its own unique experience, and new lessons await. I’ve also found that the more diverse each team experience is, the more I have learnt. And that goes for work teams, teams of friends, family teams, and even communities.
One thing I have definitely learned is that starting on the right foot is important in every situation. Whoever you’re talking to, it helps to have a handle on what makes them tick, and you have to work this out quickly.
By flexing and adapting to work with others, strong leaders can bring out the very best of everyone around them and continue developing themselves.
Katie Spreadbury, Managing Director, Vested.mail the author
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