If you’re in charge of people at work – or in any organisation – and want to be successful at it, then learning about the Art of Leadership should be high on your agenda.
There are different aspects of leadership. Many books have been written about it, and many TED talks were given about the Art of Leadership. Over the last years, I studied this subject intensely. I studied the results of research in this field and spoke to many leaders throughout Europe about the struggles and adversities they face every day. A few things stuck out.
First of all, being responsible for people usually comes with being accountable for the outcome or the result of the team. That puts a lot of pressure onto the team leaders. It might even cost them their job or position if the team doesn’t perform. In a small business environment, it could mean the downward spiral of the whole business.
Most leaders react to this pressure in two ways. They do everything to cover themselves against failure by introducing procedures that put the pressure onto the team members. This will allow them to blame the team member in case something goes wrong.
Food for thought
An example of this is the so-called McDonald’s effect. Everything is written down in the smallest details, which removes any decision-making process from team members. Every burger is the same, prepared the same, in the same environment, done with the same procedure. This is tested, and it works. Innovation or development of any kind is reduced to zero together with the risk.
The others try very hard to keep total control of all processes, which puts them in the middle and everything has to run through them. The side-effect is that without them, nothing will work and the team members turn into some robots without any decision or responsibility in the process. However, if something goes wrong, they are still blamed and, depending on severity, probably fired.
What both types of leaders seem to forget is that they are working with people who have skills, ideas and are capable of amazing things. Not using this to the advantage of the team and its results are like driving your car always in first gear. You move, but it doesn’t sound good, and the results are limited.
During my research, I came across Simon Sinek’s book “Start With Why”. It explains the How and the Why of good leadership, and it all makes a lot of sense. But the book by David Marquet “Turn the Ship Around!” is probably the best step-by-step guide to follow for true leadership. David is running a nuclear-powered submarine in the US Forces. The submarine ranked last in retention and operational standing in the whole fleet, and he was told to change this and be fully responsible for this change.
On a mission
In his book, he explains his thoughts and the talks he had with all the members of the crew and how he turned this sad submarine into the best-run submarine in the fleet. His methods can easily be translated into every business and leadership situation. The questions he asked himself are the questions every leader should ask himself or herself. I have put this book on my shelf where I can grab it quickly at any time, and it has become my ultimate guide to leadership. Here is the link on Amazon
Being a leader is not a position but a choice. If you decide to be a leader, you choose to believe in people and their abilities. You choose to help them to become the best they can be. You decide to learn how to channel this fantastic energy towards the common goal, and you accept that the results are based on your team. But at the same time, you decide to take on full responsibility if it goes wrong even if it wasn’t your fault.
Only if you are willing to put yourself into this position – and being the best at it – will you know what true leadership means.
What kind of a leader are you?