The Mark of Outstanding Leadership
Understanding leadership is the first step to creating extraordinary teams. The second step is to implement some key non-negotiable beliefs as a leader.
As I write this, I have just returned from a two day programme for leaders within an organisation. I was beautifully mesmerised by their passion for extraordinary leadership. However, I have to admit to a wry smile when I asked them what leadership actually meant to them. Silence!
Now, you have to understand that all of these people were great leaders in their own rights and passionate about making a difference but their response was no different to 100s of who have been faced with the same question. Across organisations, people are taking on greater responsibilities in their roles, managing other people or responsible for increased performance, yet few truly understand what ‘leadership’ means.
Even the Oxford English dictionary cannot state the definition clearly, without using the world ‘lead’ in its explanation. It describes leadership as, ‘The action of leading a group of people or an organisation.’
Yet if you were to search the term on the Google you would get over 2 billion results back.
So why is that so many struggle to understand what leadership is? Is it perhaps that we have over-complicated something that has been a part of the human psyche from the earliest of caveman days? When it comes to leadership, I have my own definition, ‘if you are responsible for other people or the outcomes of circumstances, you are a leader.’ The truth is that we all hold some level of responsibility for others at some stage of our lives, personally or professionally, thus we are all leaders.
The question that now remains is what kind of leader would you want to be? How would you want those affected by you to remember you? Most would answer that they would want to be respected as being a compassionate and visionary leader that developed others.
The best leaders are those that have learnt to be fluid and make it seem a natural gift as they seamlessly move from one leadership style to another adapting to changing landscapes and circumstances for maximum impact. However, one thing is clear. Great leaders are driven by strong, empowering belief systems and fully ‘walk their talk’.
Some of the beliefs that many great leaders hold are:
Helping others to grow is a strength. It is very easy in this competitive world of for anyone to feel threatened by the smartest or most dynamic members of their team, thinking that they might make them look weak. However, strong leaders will actively encourage people to work to their strengths. A corner stone of great leadership is the awareness and commitment to develop others to become leaders. I once heard a phrase some 20 years ago that has stuck with me to this day –‘The mark of an outstanding leader is not how good a leader you are but how many leaders you develop.’
Employees are individuals. True diversity is about recognising the individual difference in people, understanding that everyone has their own motivation, strengths or learning styles. To figure out these idiosyncrasies would be something that great leaders would see as a personal challenge.
Employees are your peers. I have seen many leaders in my time who have allowed their ego to become a part of the leadership thinking. With this you risk the loss of professionalism and respect. The role of a leader is not to ‘enforce’ rules and conditions but to facilitate growth. Exceptional leaders see employees as peers who have something valuable to contribute to the collective goal. Exceptional bosses actively seek out a diverse range of individuals and ideas. They expose themselves and their companies to new ways of thinking.
Work is something to enjoy. We all know that we work best when we are enjoying what we are doing and the environment that we do it in. Very often, as a leader I would drop into various sections within my department on a Friday afternoon to hold a quiz for an hour just to allow staff to feel that they were a part of something quite special. It helped to create the ‘one team’ culture. I focused on looking at people’s strengths and interests allocated work accordingly wherever possible.
Change is healthy. How many times have you heard, “This is the way we’ve always done it”? There are plenty of examples of organisations that refused to adapt to a changing market place only to fail in spectacular fashion. Great leaders see change as an opportunity for improvement and stay ahead of the curve. More importantly, they ensure they communicate change effectively to their teams and take their people along with them.
In conclusion to this short introduction to effective leadership you might want explore what your particular leadership style is and how adaptable are you to changing circumstance. I would absolutely recommend that explore the fundamental beliefs that you hold as a person and translate those across into your leadership so you come from an authentic place.
Kul Mahay is a Leadership Coach, Trainer and Lecturer using his 20 years experience as senior police leader to help other leaders to overcome the stresses and strains that these oppositions by helping them to develop greater self-awareness and management.
Interview with Kul Mahay
What is the most unique experience you have had as a result of your career?
I have had many unique moment, ranging from the most challenging to the most wonderful (I very often find that the latter come from the former). In my leadership role as a senior police officer, I have found myself being challenged in adapting my leadership style very fluidly in fast-moving situations. Many years ago, I was responsible the controlling the policing of a major football match where we expecting a lot of violence from opposing hooligans. I briefed my team of highly-trained public-disorder officers and we formed a cordon at a point where our intelligence had suggested the violence would occur.
I stood apart from my officers so that I could survey the scene and effectively control the deployments. As it happened, however, the violence erupted just a few minutes later exactly where I stood. 400 people fighting heavily exactly where I stood. That was a scary moment for me as I battled single-handedly against anyone near me to resume control. The wonderful thing that happened was that my staff saw this and immediately came to my assistance. They formed a barrier around me as they could see I was tired and we managed to get control.
When I asked in the debrief why they had done this, one officer replied, “Where would we be without our leader? You had to be protected so we could know what we needed to do to get control once more.” This was a wonderful moment for as it demonstrated that my staff, even in the most challenging of times respected me as their leader.
Who or what inspires you most?
I have many inspirations in my life but the person who inspires me to this day is my grandfather. In India he came from a very poor background. His family had very little. But through hard work and strong values, he built an entire farming estate which he later sold for for housing development which paid for him to come to England.
Despite that fact that he could not speak English, he worked hard and was able to bring his son (my father) over from India and this allowed us to be born into a country where there is opportunity for all. My brothers are doctors, my sisters are nurses and teachers and I have had the great fortune of doing all the incredible things I have achieved. My grandfather was the greatest influence in my life. He lived a life of vision, values and hard work ethic. He was a tremendous leader in his own right.
What do you think makes a good leader *great*?
I have always said that the mark of an outstanding leader is not just how good you are but how many leaders you develop.
Great leadership requires a sense of humility, vision and a passion for people that is second to none. To develop others requires us to take away the focus from ourselves and pays in limitless dividends if done right.
What are 3 habits for success?
My 3 key habits for success are:
- CLARITY – We need to have a deep level of clarity about what our end goal is. If we don’t have that there is always a danger of meandering through life rather than striding purposely towards the goal.
- CONGRUENCE – Everything that we do, think or say should be intentional. It should be aligned with our goals. This is about living life on purpose and with intention instead of giving way to distraction that the modern world can bring to us.
- COMMITMENT – To be successful in any aspect of our life, we need to be absolutely committed. This applies in equal parts across all areas of life – work, health, family, friends, spirituality and wealth.
How much does humor factor into your keynotes and other speaking engagements?
Humour is fundamental to any great talk. For me, it tends to be at my own expense as I believe it is important to be able to laugh at oneself. I use humour through my speaking whilst ensuring that it is linked to strong learning points. Very often the personal stories I use are peppered with humour.
Describe yourself in 3 words.