Lauren Robinson, managing partner at Lea_p, and Catherine Stagg-Macey, director of Team Coaching, discuss the key qualities that make a great leader
If you thought of someone assertive, visionary, who leads from the front, emphasises control and makes decisions mainly from their intellect and mind, then you’d probably be describing the majority of business leaders out there. But as leadership trainers, we know that these behaviours alone are not enough and in fact they have a glass ceiling.
Leadership needs a shake-up. As leaders we have to take responsibility for our own development and evolution, which is why Lea_p has created their flagship programme The Soul of Leadership. We know companies that are profitable, sustainable and successful are run by deeply self-aware leaders, who have a strong sense of purpose and culture. The Soul of Leadership teaches you how to become this type of leader.
To create the programme, we travelled across the world meeting and interviewing leaders from the boardrooms of the West to the indigenous tribes of the Amazon rainforest. We explored the very best examples of leadership, then analysed the characteristics within them. What we found were four key skills.
A team member comes late to a meeting and you get annoyed. Do you know why? Understanding why we behave the way we do is essential to leading well. We need to understand our values, our patterns, what or who triggers us and why.
One of our clients sends senior leaders to an offsite university in France for five days; this gives staff a whole week away from their day job to reflect and learn. This time away isn’t about finding solutions to business problems; it doesn’t have key performance indicators that must be hit. Instead the staff are trusted to find their own areas for development. The result is every single participant leaves with a clear mission for themselves and their team.
Creating time for yourself to explore your behaviours is essential for your evolution as a leader. If you only have time to adopt one of these skills make it this one, the impact will be huge.
Influencing and relationships
Leadership expert and author Simon Sinek says there are only two ways to influence human behaviour. “You can manipulate it or you can inspire it,” he says. All leaders want to be inspirational, but to do this you need to develop your emotional intelligence. Many current leaders have a style of “I’ll do anything to make it to the top” and we know that a bad manager is the number-one reason employees give for leaving a company. Great leaders ask themselves, “How can I create a team culture where everyone feels empowered?”
One of the biggest failings of most leaders is how they give and receive feedback. Great feedback is in the service of the growth of the person receiving it. Often when giving feedback it comes from a place of judgment about behaviours the leader doesn’t like. Great leaders turn this around and feed forward. In essence, this is about seeing where a person is right now, where you see them in the future and the steps they have to take to reach that future potential. This is about believing in your staff so much until they really believe in themselves. Feeding forward from a place of love and service is the start. Empowering others is the essence of leadership.
There is nothing more soul destroying than spending each day working towards something that isn’t your purpose. When leaders talk about purpose they mean their personal why; why they are here and why they exist.
Having the courage to pursue your purpose and share it with the world gives you great fulfilment and inspires those around you. In the Amazon, we lived with the Achuar tribe of Ecuador and as a culture they take purpose very seriously. As young teenagers each tribe member has to spend time alone in the rainforest as an initiation to adulthood.
Through shamanic rituals, each tribe member gains clarity on their purpose. This in turn gives them focus for their life and they are then allowed to re-enter the tribe as adults. Each member of the tribe has to find their purpose, no matter how long it takes. For some this is leading the tribe, for others it’s being a hunter, others a mother, others a gardener who grows crops in the chakra. Everyone’s role is respected and honoured, and everyone has a purpose. How much time have you spent thinking about yours?
Leaders must think systemically and understand the impact of each decision on not only themselves and their company, but also on the world.
Lea_p worked with a board who as part of an ambitious growth plan wanted to preserve the people-centric culture in the organisation. This required them to understand the impact of each decision on the entire organisation. This was a fundamental shift in mindset from a whack-a-mole strategy of problem-solving to seeing the organisation as an interconnected whole.
Systems awareness is key to creating a clear culture. GE reported that culture takes six years to copy, therefore as a leader it might be the only real competitive advantage we have. Who creates the culture? You’ve got it, the leaders.
Traditional leadership skills are all about task; modern leadership behaviours are all about who you are being. To cultivate who you are, rather than what you do takes a completely new way of training and developing.
The Soul of Leadership is a nine-month programme designed to cultivate who you are as a leader. The Soul of Leadership will let you embark on a journey of self-acceptance, finding your purpose in work and life, and expand your ability to be in real and transformative relationships. The journey you take will be unlike anything else, but it is this type of deep and profound work that is required to create a new leadership, one the world desperately needs.
Lea_p Leadership are an experiential learning and development company based in London. Behavioural transformation is at the core of what we do to create conscious leaders and conscious companies.
We are taking applications now. If you think you might have what it takes to become a great leader please apply at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.lea-p.com