Leadership is often defined using words such as vision, charisma, strategy, inspiration, and influence. But what exactly is leadership? And how does it manifest in the workplace? As a seasoned professional with too many decades of experience in diverse industries, including serving in the Royal Navy, I have had the opportunity to work with different types of leaders and have witnessed firsthand the impact of their leadership styles across teams and organizations. In this blog post, I will share my perspective on leadership based on my experience.
The best leaders I have ever worked for have always pushed me to be better, try different things and take risks.
Leadership is about inspiring and empowering people to work towards shared goals. It’s not about being in control or making unilateral decisions, but rather, working collaboratively with others to achieve organisational success. Leaders understand the importance of building trust, respect and healthy relationships. They possess excellent communication and conflict-resolution skills and can balance the needs and interests of different stakeholders. This kind of leadership fosters a sense of belonging, commitment, and loyalty towards your team, which in turn drives engagement, trust, empowerment, productivity, and innovation.
Leadership is also about character. I have observed that leaders who exhibit integrity, humility, authenticity, and empathy tend to gain the trust and confidence of their teams. They lead by example, set clear expectations, and hold themselves accountable for their decisions and actions. They are responsive and approachable and create a positive work environment that encourages creativity and risk-taking. These leaders are not afraid to admit their mistakes or ask for help when needed, and they are always looking for ways to improve themselves and their teams.
Effective leaders also have a strategic mindset. They can see the big picture, anticipate challenges and opportunities, and make informed decisions that align with the organisation’s mission and vision. Leaders are still people, and they try their best to navigate change and uncertainty while everyone around them expects them to adapt their approach to fit different circumstances. They invest in their teams’ development and encourage learning and growth at all levels. These leaders try to build a vision for the future, and can motivate their teams to work towards a common goal, even in the face of obstacles.
Another important aspect of leadership is emotional intelligence. Leaders who can understand and manage their own emotions, as well as those of others, can build stronger relationships and foster a more positive workplace culture. They demonstrate empathy by showing concern for the well-being of those around them, try to champion the underrepresented voices and aim at creating a supportive environment that values diversity and inclusion. They also recognize the importance of work-life balance and encourage their teams to prioritize self-care and personal growth.
When I talk to people joining my teams, I ask them for three things – 1) help us be better, 2) if someone tells you “we can’t do that ask them what it would take so that we can do it?”, and I encourage them to try things by saying “it’s OK to try things and fail, the important thing is that we learn”
Leadership is a complex and multifaceted concept that cannot be reduced to a single definition. From my experiences, leadership is a combination of character, skills, and mindset that fosters collaboration, inspires innovation, builds trust, and empowers teams to achieve their goals. Effective leaders are those who can adapt their style to fit different circumstances and who constantly seek to improve themselves and their teams. In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing industry, leadership has never been more critical. As professionals, we must strive to develop and enhance our leadership skills, and to embody the qualities that define true leadership.