When running management and leadership development workshops, I am often amazed at the amount of knowledge that participants already have.  So many of them know the books, the gurus, the Ted talks, the theories…

In any case, leadership development is not a matter of knowledge/learning – it’s much more about approach. My ‘take’ on leadership is that it happens through a series of great conversations: interview, induction. goal-setting, delegation, giving feedback, coaching, brain-storming, knowledge-sharing and – of course – social conversation.  Each conversation offering a different leadership opportunity.

But the quality of these conversations depends, first and foremost on the leader’s approach.  What do they believe about their reports, their goals, their challenges?  More importantly – what do they believe about themselves?  I often share these tips with managers and leaders – in particular, newer managers.  They are inevitably met with sighs of relief and give rise to great discussions:

  1. Be open to learning and recognise that everything that happens is useful feedback. Notice what works and build on that.  Notice what does not work and try something different.
  2. Become aware of what drives your behaviour. Be really honest about what you do and why.  Work towards doing the right thing for the right reason.
  3. Accept that things might be different. You may be new to a team, you may have been promoted from the team, and you may now be managing people who applied for your job.  It may take everyone a little while to adjust to the new situation.
  4. Remember that people do the best they can and that their behaviour is about themselves – not about you. Some of your team members may support you beautifully, others may undermine you.  Don’t get sucked into other people’s poor behaviour.
  5. Don’t be too hard on yourself; everybody gets it wrong sometimes. If it happens admit your mistakes, apologise, move on (and don’t do it again!)
  6. Keep on learning; There is a lot going on and it’s easy to lose perspective
  7. Ask for help. Create a support network before it’s needed.  There are lots of people around you who will be all too happy to help you in many ways.
  8. Accept that you will sometimes have to make tough decisions and disappoint people. That is part of what being a manager is about.  Remember, too, that you will be able to make a big positive difference for team members through the quality of your relationship with them.
  9. Make sure your voice is heard. Managers often have great first-hand/front-line information but hold back from sharing their thoughts and opinions at meetings – especially if they think they will be disagreeing with senior colleagues. If you find it difficult to speak up at meetings, find a way to make your point.  Practicing assertive behaviour is always worthwhile
  10. When possible deal face-to-face. Email is quick, simple, and easy and it leaves an audit trail.  It is also impersonal, easy to overlook and even easier to misinterpret.  Management – and leadership – happens best in face to face conversations.

Statistics for nerds:  all of these are popular.  The most popular are 2, 3, 4 and 10.