The dream job for most comes with a corner office, a personal assistant, engaging projects and plenty of influence. The reality of managing people however is where leaders are divided; either those at the bottom barely know the chief executive at the top or the boss adopts ‘Scandal’s’ Olivia Pope strategy, in which there are no official hierarchies and professional value is determined on personal input. Although the executive roles can be considered isolated ones, time invested in getting to know your colleagues lays the foundations for the future as allegiance is earned through a genuine effort to get to know those you are working with. If the effort is real, then loyalty is rewarded; as emotional intelligence expert Harvey Deutschendorf argues, “no one likes to work for a phony”.
Good leadership has always boiled down to the basics. What divides good bosses from great ones is the understanding that key leadership skills evolve as their career progresses and being willing to invest time in self-development for the benefit of the team and the company. Top-tier positions have never been about the 9-to-5 grind, nor have they been about one person bearing sole responsibility for a company’s outcome, but a far broader definition of leadership that evolves as a collective. It's those who lead by example by investing time in personal development in order to maintain a connection with their colleagues that can go from building a reputation to no longer needing to introduce themselves, as they are known on their own accord. Follow their lead and go back to the basics in refining these 3 points to perfect your own style of leadership.
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A bulk of the role as a leader is motivating others; rarely have people followed their leader into battle who didn’t fiercely believe victory was possible. Burberry CEO-turned Apple SVP Angela Ahrendts is a fierce proponent of optimism as a leader; “belief is ignited by hope and supported by facts and evidence” she says, “it builds alignment and creates confidence”. Indeed, those who lead and inspire with a positive perception kindle motivation and belief in others; it’s a contagious attribute that no business can do without. Cultivate optimism by focusing on and appreciating the small things; a finished project, weekly meetings to lift morale, even something as small as the perfect cappuccino. If karma is up your street, then you’ll be sure to reap the benefits of sending out the good vibes and if a habit ca be made in 21 days, then a positive, more optimistic output can be crafted in less than a month. If it works for Ahrendts, it certainly can work for you.
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According to businessman author Brian Tracy (often quoted by Richard Brandson), "Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life". Communication is a trait that hides in plain sight; it’s so evident in life that it’s easy to forget how important to stay aware of your communication in a professional capacity. Aside from tone, body language and vocabulary, the performance of your communication is a forgotten yet necessary trait. It’s no secret that world leaders practice their speeches before a public appearance and you’d do the same before an important meeting. The value of your performance and communication depends on your delivery and an acute awareness of how you appear and sound when you are interacting with others. What some interpret as friendly and warm others perceive as fake so practicing how you greet others, make a pitch or accept criticism and constantly moulding yourself is the simple trick to improve your communication skills.
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Above anything else, the concept of ‘work’ is a collective effort. Progress will always be stunted if one person – namely the boss – tries to do it all. Enter the power of delegation. It’s an obvious, yet often overlooked point, especially when taking on new leadership responsibilities. Distributing work among a team is a double-edged sword; on the one hand, you have to let go and literally trust someone else to do a job, which is easier said than done. On the flipside, freeing up your time is a motivator to your team; it inspires loyalty, a belief that you trust them to take control of their work and gives credit where credit is due. This is also reiterated by Helena Morrissey, in encouraging team-leaders to move away from the dated single-man vision of a company; “It's far more powerful when people say, "Look, nobody gets the credit for this, we're just all going to solve this problem together, because it needs solving." The reality of leading a team is that everyone comes to you for the answers and sometimes, there’s real beauty in turning around – in a diplomatic fashion - and saying “solve it yourself”. In putting your faith in others and in a way, forcing them to learn through their work by assigning new tasks, your team grows as a collective and you, as a leader.
Words by Adrienn Bardossy