A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to deliver next year’s “Effective Leadership” training course for the PRCA — and I’ve been thinking about leadership, and what it means to me, ever since.
I’ve thought about my idea of famous leaders throughout history — and the infamous ones. The ones that achieved great things and changed the world for the better… and the ones that wreaked havoc and misery on the world and made it a worse place. They were all leaders because they had people willing to be led and work towards a common goal — and stopped being leaders when that willingness subsided.
I've been thinking about my own leadership journey in my career. I've been lucky to be led by some amazing leaders who really pushed me to be better, work smarter, and bring out my best self. I've also had encounters with not-so-great leaders. Some were too pushy, and some just wanted to be friends. Some micromanaged, others too hands-off. Some were just stubborn in their ways, and don’t get me started on the big egos… I’m guessing some of you will have worked with these people too!
As communicators, we should be good at this stuff: understanding our audiences; getting our messages across concisely and effectively; and encouraging people to respond in a positive way. But I fear that effective leadership is still massively inconsistent and there is too much of the bad and not enough of the good. Too many people in a leadership position feeling frustrated that their teams aren’t as effective and efficient as they could be, and too many people in those teams feeling undermined and unappreciated. All of which shows that knowing how to sharpen and evolve your leadership skills should be something you commit to throughout your career.
So, as I think about the course I will be delivering, I want to focus on the kind of leaders that I would want to be led by as well as the kind of leader I would want to be. Both perspectives are crucial to ensure that the willingness to be led doesn’t subside. How would I want a vision communicated so that I understand it enough to be able to work towards it? What motivations and encouragement would I want and what would make me want to go above and beyond more often? How would I want to be recognised when I’ve done well and how would I want bad or difficult messages to be communicated? How would I want to be able to provide feedback and submit ideas? What amount of freedom do I crave… and what amount is too much?
It’s stating the obvious but my answers to the questions above are different to the next person, so the key (and challenge) is to create the right environment for everyone in the team to flourish — and that is hard to do. It requires flexibility and adaptability in both style and approach.
The course I deliver absolutely won’t be a “10 things you need to do for effective leadership” (you can get that off TikTok…) but it will challenge people to reflect on their own leadership skills and explore ways to develop them.