By Ania Lichota, Executive Coach, Inspirational Speaker and Leadership Mastery, working with Barrington-Hibbert Associates
Corporate leadership is a marathon, not a sprint. So as a leader how do you get to the next level and attain leadership mastery. All great leaders constantly refine their skills until they become truly effective and for many that work never ceases. Here are four ways that you can start to hone your leadership skills and realise your true leadership potential.
1. Have a high regard for yourself
Leadership is achieving results through others. This requires a certain boldness to have a vision, to ask people to deliver and stand strong for what you believe in. That requires high self-regard, which means being authentic and non-defensive when challenged, staying centered, able to flex personal comfort zones. It’s about having a deep sense of inner confidence and wellbeing and knowing your own limitations. It is also about having personal maturity and the ability to balance being supportive while sticking to your direction and goals. You need to be able to talk into other business function’ worlds and context at their level, in their language. I had a session earlier this month with a newly promoted department lead of an IT company and we talked about him learning the language of his stakeholders and differentiating how best to talk to them when influencing and being understood in a 360 degree context.
2. Enthuse and energise but most importantly listen
A leader’s job is to enthuse and energise people to be the best they can be, to be creative, to empower them to experiment and make mistakes, to remove obstacles in their ability to learn and grow. But most importantly good leaders listen and listen without judgment. It’s about having the skill to ask questions, not just out of your own curiosity but from the world of the person you are listening too, in order to drill deep and explore with them their thoughts and views to truly understand, probe and assess their needs and concerns. I recently worked with a country manager who was not listening to the team enough and initially was unable to suspend judgement. We talked about how her questions did not deepen the conversation, they were just cutting through it and throwing the other person of balance. The net result was that manager was not learning about what was going in the team at the level that it needed to be addressed and the other person felt frustrated and not heard.
3. Delegating big
Daring to delegate big and accepting other ways as the way forward rather than trying to control everything and do it your way is another way to hone your leadership mastery. This involves trusting the people working with you up front, giving up your idea of perfectionism whilst taking on the full responsibility for other people’s mistakes. You will need to learn to let go of your own opinions of what other people are capable of – you don’t know until they try. I recently worked with a CEO of a small business who wanted it to grow. He set of to delegate, to create a supportive environment and to communicate more clearly and openly with the team. Than six months down the line he started clawing back the freedom he gave people at the outset, stopped transparent communication about the results and has put a COO in place between himself and the team. Our cooperation ceased because he simply could not let go.
4. Developing emotional resilience
Great leaders take care to focus on their skills and their stamina, they develop an emotional resilience using techniques such as mindfulness and deep self-knowledge. They effectively manage energy levels during stress and anxiety. They have a balanced view of what they can control and have a healthy perspective on problems. There are no mistakes to them but learning opportunities. This can be achieved by focusing your awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. For example financial advisors at American Express whose managers completed the Emotional Competence training programme were compared to an equal number whose managers had not. During the year following the training the advisors of trained managers grew their businesses by 18.1% compared to 16.2% for the untrained managers.
Emotional intelligence helps leaders shield themselves from the impact of stress and intensity. It also helps them to balance family and work and protects them against burnout but most of all when you retain personal power over yourself, your emotions and intellect, you excel at connecting with others and in whatever you want to excel in. One CEO that I recently worked with said that our sessions helped him to develop space and time to hear himself out. It helped him distinguish between himself and the business and helped him translate the vision into an achievable path.
Over the 17 years of my own corporate career and coaching other leaders more recently I’ve realised that the more one focuses efforts on developing self (growing personally) the further in the leadership career one can get. Investing time in understanding your own drivers, taking time to reflect on situations, outcomes and our part in those, letting go of the ego and then learning how you can pass all your knowledge and experience on to others, how you can coach your teams to personally grow will take you further then you dare to dream. You don’t know what you are capable of until you try and my motto in life reflect this: ‘your success is a bi-product of who you really are’.