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Lessons in Leadership


Lessons in Leadership

It isn’t often that I give leadership advice – having only been in management for 6 years it is an area which I usually feel I am not sufficiently qualified in to impart anything useful – however, for the benefit of those people who are new to a managerial role or who wish to eventually progress their career into management, here are some of the things I have picked up along the way.

Live and die by your team

Shortly after I became a manager, I was asked by a colleague to explain the difference between my role and a role which a member of my team fulfilled.  My response was simple – “if that individual makes a mistake, it is my mistake as their manager.  If the individual does well, the credit belongs to them.”  I firmly believe that any manager or leader (and I realise they are not necessarily the same thing) needs to be accountable for the actions of their team but also humble enough to step back and let them take the credit when something goes well.  By doing this you will not only get the respect of your team, but also the respect from your superiors as well.

Praise in public, criticise in private

Following on from the above point, when things go badly (and they will) defend your team, or team member, in public.  Your team need to know that you support them (only by demonstrating this can you expect them to be loyal to you) and will stand by them.  Obviously, you cannot defend the indefensible but, in that case, what you can do is try not to inflame the situation further.  Only once you are in a private environment, without any risks of interruptions, should you express your own feelings and ensure that the mistake is acknowledged and dealt with n a professional manner.

Demonstrate a willingness to pitch in

Just because you have reached the exalted heights of middle management, do not forget where you have come from.  You need to show your team, especially if you have been employed from another company, that you’re capable of doing what you’re asking.  In my first year as a manager I did every outside event over the summer, worked more weekends than the rest and ultimately showed I was one of them.  This was an early lesson I picked up from my Dad – “never ask someone to do something you’re not willing, or able, to do yourself” – and it has stuck with me ever since.  Only by doing this will you earn the respect of your team.

Learn as you go along

Everyone has been managed at some point in their career and everyone has, I am sure, experienced both good and bad management.  Learn from it.  An early piece of advice I was given was to look at, and observe, other managers. See how they deal with a situation.  Would you have done it the same?  Understand how you like to be managed.  Even if the only thing you pick up is that you don’t want to be like your current/past manager, you have a working base to start from.

Be honest and encourage honesty

This goes back to living and dying by your team.  If something isn’t right, be honest about it.  Whilst I am not encouraging breaches of confidentiality (occasionally you will be party to information that you cannot disclose), you need to respect your team’s intellect and abilities.  Chances are you employed them, or they were employed, because they were able to do their job and could think for themselves.  Therefore, the worst thing you can do is pretend that everything in the garden is rosy when, to anyone with two eyes, two ears and a brain, it clearly isn’t.  All you’ll succeed in doing is losing their respect and trust.

So there they are, five simple things which I think are intrinsic to good leadership.  Do you agree?


Neil Lakeland