Stepping up to the leadership journey - how to accelerate your leadership potential

Posted on: 10/03/2021

This is a guest post from our Women in Innovation Programme coaches in residence: Lorna Clarke, Leadership Coach & Facilitator, and Mary Ely, Business & Personal Change Specialist.

Leaders have a profound impact on their team, company culture, and bottom line. Yet many of us feel unprepared for leadership. We think that perhaps we’re not cut out to lead, or that we have to shoehorn ourselves into being something that we’re not.

Many of us end up in leadership as a result of being technically excellent but with little opportunity to develop as a leader ahead of arriving in the role. So we often find ourselves having to learn as we go, continually finding the courage to step outside our comfort zone into unknown territory. And all of that whilst also navigating the other elements of running a business.

The good news is, we are all able to learn how to be better leaders and we already have a wealth of skills, strengths and talents we can draw on.

What exactly is leadership?

We may have many preconceptions about what leadership is, given what we see in the media, our own experiences in the world of work, and maybe what we learnt about leadership as we grew up.

‘Leadership is the ability to build and maintain a high performing team.’ Dr Robert Hogan

This definition focuses the mind on what our job is as a leader. At its heart, leadership is about getting a group of people to work together towards a common purpose and to do it efficiently.
  • Creating the right conditions in which people can flourish and be at their best, and so deliver what the business is there to do.
  • Recognising that how we lead directly impacts the motivation, engagement and wellbeing of the team, which affects results and bottom line.

What qualities make a great leader?

We think these three sources sum them up well:

1. Warren Bennis states that the six competencies exemplary leaders share are being able to:

  • Create a sense of mission
  • Engage and motivate others
  • Build an adaptive and agile social structure
  • Generate and sustain trust
  • Develop leaders
  • Get results

2. Jim Collins in his book ‘Good to Great’ found through his research into Fortune 1000 companies, that those whose performance moved from mediocrity to sustained excellence all had a new CEO at the helm. And, they shared two surprising characteristics:

  • Extreme personal humility
      • They were humble and modest rather than self-promoting and  self-dramatising
  • Intense professional will
      • They were incredibly persistent

3. From Daniel Goleman’s work the single biggest predictor of leadership success is Emotional Intelligence. And using the RocheMartin Emotional Capital model, the ten dynamic emotions that drive leadership success when practiced regularly are:

  • Self-Awareness
  • Self-Reliance
  • Empathy
  • Relationship Skills
  • Optimism
  • Self-Confidence
  • Straightforwardness
  • Adaptability
  • Self-Control
  • Self-Actualisation

What do teams need from you as their leader to be at their best?

Remember that they are unique individuals and treat them as such. 
  • Take the time to understand them individually, what each one needs from you and how you need to flex what you do to help them be at their best.
  • Respect the qualities they bring and show your appreciation for the effort they make.
  • Remember they are imperfect human beings that are prone to error.

Help them establish and maintain the following 5 essential ingredients for high performing teams that feel great to work in! Through role modelling desired behaviours and supporting them in a way that’s right for them – individually and as a team.

  • Good team relationships and a psychologically safe environment
  • Common team purpose
  • Clear roles and responsibilities
  • Agreed ways of working
  • Clear inter-team dependencies (making sure ingredients 1-4 are in place for every stakeholder and team that the team needs to interact with).

What can you do to accelerate your leadership potential?

Leadership development is a continual work in progress as we grow, develop and get to know ourselves better as both a human being and a leader.

You can accelerate your development and effectiveness by getting to know yourself really well:

  • deepening your levels of self-awareness
  • understanding what your strengths & values are and playing to those more
  • having a commitment and curiosity to uncover your blind spots and areas for development
  • seeking out regular feedback from others, including your team
  • building your understanding of how your behaviour changes under pressure, and what you need to be at your best

Leadership is a huge topic and too big for one blog, so we hope you’ve found our key points valuable. 

The coaching team are providing an ongoing special coaching package of 33% off their normal rates for a limited number of women within the Women in Innovation community.

Watch the recording from our International Women’s Day 8th March 2021 session below for more details!

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