What True Leadership Is All About
I’ve been under different types of leadership in profit and non-profit organisations, right across the board in different industries/sectors, right from multi-billion-dollar industries to not-for-profit charities and churches. After 20 years of working in sales and marketing across different industries, I have had a lot of bosses but unfortunately not many leaders. Then after about 10 years I was given the opportunity to lead a team and therefore had extensive examples of what true leadership is all about. One thing that I know for sure is that leadership is not about bullying people into following you or making them scared of you to make them do what you tell them to do.
You cannot be a true leader by forcing people to follow you, they will actually want to want to follow you. So many people in leadership deceive themselves in thinking that they are leading their team, when in reality, they have no idea how to lead and wonder why they have such a high turnover of staff. A leader should be someone the staff look up to, who inspires them to do their job and make improvements in their personal life and career life.
Many years ago, I had a boss who would always be looking over my shoulder while the sales team were on the phone – saying “smile when you talk, be positive, are you smiling enough? Don’t forget to tell the client this or that, keep the client on the phone as long as you can” and on and on. He had absolutely no people skills or emotional intelligence at all and expected his sales team to have it all!
Another boss I had was just so frightening, expected you to have no life outside of work, sales results were the absolutely only thing that was important and everyone was terrified of her. It was literally like working for the boss from the movie ‘The Devil Wears Prada’. Everyone scurried around trying to avoid her hoping she didn’t call your name. Yet in the media she was this amazing leader of this multi-million-dollar organisation with a huge number of satisfied staff working for her. (If only they knew!) Her leadership or lack thereof, created mini managers just like her, as their heads would be on the chopping block if they didn’t get their team performing.
At the other end of the spectrum another boss I had was too busy with his own personal life and wasn’t really there for the company or the team. He didn’t really care, as long as we turned up and were generally performing. Of course, team morale was quite low and we all had to be very personally motivated as there was nothing coming from the boss in way of inspiration or encouragement.
Looking back, I have realised that I performed the best in my sales roles under the few bosses who were leaders. My sales went through the roof, I was happy, the sales teams were performing really well as a whole, and people weren’t treated like a usable, easily disposed of commodity, like paper for the printer. So, what made them different?
True leadership is about encouraging and inspiring your team through your actions as their role model. Your words and actions must match up otherwise not much respect will be gained amongst your team. A leader cannot lecture the team on what is expected, required and must be achieved if they are not prepared to set the example also. A true leader must also be transparent, is in touch with themselves and their own emotions, instead of being oblivious to their behavior, how they speak and what they say, knowing it starts with them – as the role model. I really believe that organisations should invest in their people in leadership and staff taking emotional intelligence courses as people are the most important thing in any company. Whomever is at the top in a leadership role has a huge impact on the day to day running of the business because people run and keep a business going. Their leadership style, their moods, their emotions need to be in check to be successful as a leader if they want to lead their team into success.
True leaders focus on treating people like people, valuing them and not; abusing their title of boss or their power, lording it over people, motivating in fear and oppression, sitting on their imaginary throne expecting to be served, using and abusing people, taking the very best of everything for themselves and getting what they can out of people for their own gain. They are accountable and admit when their wrong - not shifting the blame to the team.
True leaders know it is more important to listen to their staff than to talk the whole time, wanting and accepting staff feedback and or input. The old business model of a boss with tunnel vision, telling staff what to do or else, thinking they know it all should no longer exist. Listening to ideas from all of the staff and being open to creativity from different perspectives can only add to an organization going forward. I remember being in staff meetings where we just had to sit and listen and take notes, it was so frustrating and boring. Hours of the boss talking and not listening and then with no call to action afterwards, so nothing was ever achieved, just a lot of talk. It is essential if anyone is in leadership or considering going into it really asks themselves the question “What is true leadership all about?” It would be rare to have one person with all the experience, education and full skill set needed to run a successful company by themselves, leaders need to build a team of loyal, creative and skilled people going forward successfully.