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“We need leadership!” Yes, and what does that demand of me?

30 second summary:

Leadership is the opposite of supervision and micro management. More than ever, leadership is about visibility, empathy and appropriate action. This article briefly explores three reference points for what makes a good leader, and why.

“We need leadership!” reverberates publicly across multiple media as never before. So what does leadership look like to those demanding it? What behaviours, attributes and abilities are we looking for in our leaders – and in ourselves as leaders?

Consider for starters three cornerstone behaviours – which “we” are asking of leaders – and do well to ask of ourselves as leaders:

Be visible – Not so long ago “management by wandering about” became the mantra of strong leaders.  Even more today, with the prevalence of social media, people need to see their leaders, need to be able to reach out to them as equals, especially at times of deep uncertainty. “Your greatest ability as a leader is your availability” a wise old man once told me.

Show that you care – Relationships have always mattered to human beings. Even in business, though relationships are more important in some nation states than in others, they matter wherever you are on this planet.

People want to know of their leaders: “Do you care about how I feel (happy or sad) - or at the very least do you acknowledge how I feel?” Granted, some of us do emotions more naturally than others.  Over 40 years of data from Myers Briggs shows that people globally are almost equally split in how they approach decision-making: from a thinking (data) perspective or from a feeling (values) perspective.

Thinkers do ‘feel’ but they do so from a thinking point of view and are therefore less demonstrative in their empathy, have to work harder at “showing” that they care.

Take appropriate action – Communication, emerging as quickly as possible, is essential in every change situation. It is also a central attribute of any sentient social being – think dolphins or elephants. By speaking out, leaders go beyond thinking and viscerally commit to take action. Good leaders move quickly to first-steps in making things happen - in line with their spoken commitment and to improve the situation.

By taking action, leaders turn commitment into reality, take responsibility for the situation, distribute power (empower) with associated resources and organise for first-steps to be taken. Good leaders hold those empowered accountable to ensure that what’s been promised actually happens. Beyond first steps, good leaders work with those empowered to agree a process for subsequent steps to move all to a better place.

The above three behaviours remind me of whole leaders, head, heart, guts leaders. These are people who have developed a degree of balance between head, heart and guts. With their head they bring logic and clear thinking, they are visible on these matters.

With their heart they bring compassion and connection at a human level, the show that they care.

With their guts they take action, and ensure that others do likewise.

Each of us does well to consider “From which angle do I naturally respond? How balanced am I in terms of head, heart, gut responses?” Do you agree? What would you add? If only against these three cornerstones, how do we stack up as leaders in our own spheres of influence?

Cora Lynn Heimer Rathbone is a trusted business adviser, a strategy and leadership development expert, a certified executive coach and a Partner at Rathbone Results; Rathbone Results: 020 8798 0175; cora-lynn@rathboneresults.com

Cora Lynn Heimer Rathbone

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