Lessons in leadership from the last 20 years

Leadership is a balancing act. At times, that balance and leadership equilibrium can be a tall order to maintain, but the old cliché of “if it’s that easy, everyone would be doing it” was never truer. Therefore I have outlined some key facets of what I believe make a good leader, based on personal experience, but also from observing both peers and previous bosses/leaders over the last 20 years.

Be consistent

Whether leading you’re own organisation (as in my case) or someone else’s, being consistent in your leadership by dint of your own behaviour, is critical. It doesn’t mean you have to be everybody’s mate, the life and soul of the party or a dullard, but you cannot afford to be unpredictable in your leadership. This causes confusion and sometimes panic, particularly in this time of economic and societal unrest.

Trust and empower

An old boss said to me once, “hire someone who can do your job, it will make you better at yours”. This doesn’t mean that you can become lazy and delegate irresponsibly, it means take the time to recruit senior members of your team, work closely with them and empower them to make decisions that you would. The dynamism that comes from trusting relationships is a potent force in any business. 

Good leaders should have a circle of trusted and empowered partners behind them.

Empowerment of those people means, as a leader you need to listen to their counsel and be prepared to accept it, as well as welcome their opinion and sometimes, their criticism, otherwise what’s the point of having them in those positions?

Age is irrelevant, experience isn’t

Personally, I think it’s exciting that people of any age are bitten by the entrepreneurial spirit, it can only be a positive think for the global economy, and shock horror, some of these people are in their twenties, thirties or even younger. Those leaders who are successful have gained experience often from making mistakes, and yes it is perfectly ok to mess up. Another cliché but a true one, is not learning from mistakes is, well, a mistake.

Adapt and adopt

Leadership in 2017 requires the need and the ability to be able to adapt and adopt new ways of doing things as and when it benefits your organisation and the people within it. Don’t be frightened of rattling the cage every once in a while in terms of organisational structure or process, just do it with some consideration and consistency. 

Similarly, be mindful of “the new, new thing”, too many organisations get distracted by what I’d call ill consider innovation. Adaption and adoption needs to be smart.

For me, genuine organisational innovation comes from empowerment, giving guidance in a way that sets people free.

Understand what rewards

There was time when rewards were seen as earning telephone numbers, the top of the range motor, a corner office, expense account and the machismo of 18-hour days. Personally, I can’t imagine anything worse, and fortunately things are beginning to change. The beauty of being a modern leader is that you can take the time to understand what rewards your team, partner, and yourself. In our company, we’re all parents; we don’t put a price on family time as it’s priceless, we’d all rather have more holiday time than simply just more money. “Me time” is fast becoming prime time and it’s something modern leaders should encourage more of.

Listen to your gut

I’ve always felt that leadership involves a primordial element. However, just trusting your gut isn’t the way to lead in totality, but I have found that listening to your gut has always been incredible helpful to me and invariably almost always right. Being comfortable with your own instinct takes time, experience and making mistakes, but it can be an incredibly powerful tool.

Learn to love

Given we spend a significant proportion of our lives working, it’s imperative that I love what I do and it’s imperative that the people around me love what they do too. It’s critical that as a leader you engender and encourage people to thrive. Sure, it’s not all air kissing and Christmas Parties, but in my experience organisations that are filled with people that, more often than not, love what they do rather than pathologically hate it, are the most successful.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.

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