Leadership – it’s all about the people

When it comes to leadership, essentially it’s about the people. Not about the strategy, the vision or the products but about people connecting with other people.

It’s even better, of course, if a leader has a great strategy, vision and products but the buck stops with human contact. If you are a good communicator, someone who can connect and have empathy, then you’ll be more influential as a leader.

In our work with different types of organisations, we’ve noticed that there is a critical point where the size of the business hampers the leaders from delegating. The barriers start to come up with a company size of 40-50 people upwards.

It’s easy enough to determine what the necessary characteristics of great leaders are, but how much of the time do you actually display those behaviours? Making that leap from ‘doing everything’ and working on operational tasks, to trusting someone else to do it for you, is a hard one. You might recognise yourself as having a leadership position, but all you’ve done is add a little bit of leadership to an operational role. Instead of spending 20% of your time on operations and 80% leadership, it’s actually the other way round.

People skills tend to take a bit of a back seat when it comes to companies recognising who should be promoted. Those who display more technical prowess find themselves climbing the ladder ahead of those that don’t, and ironically then end up as managers of people, where people skills could really come in handy.

Let’s take a look at the two stages of leadership:

1. Stage 1 is the setup phase. This doesn’t necessarily happen at the start of becoming a leader, but can also kick in when a business’ strategy and vision needs to be evaluated. Your role as a leader in this stage is to get behind the vision and the strategy.

You may feel as a leader you need to come up with the vision so that you can sell it to others. Or the vision could be a collaborative team output which you line up behind. However you look at it, your skill as a leader is to connect with the people so that they align with the vision. This is more important than creating the vision in the first place.

2. Stage 2 is called the execution or delivery phase. This stage is all about coaching and is likely to be how you spend the majority of your time. In order for a team to be motivated and encouraged to give their best performance, your job as leader is to instil that motivation and encouragement. You need to be sensitive to people’s feelings, be a good listener and be part challenger and part support back-up – in other words, a coach.

Leader of the people vs thought leader

You will have no doubt seen this difference in leaders. But which camp do you fall into? A thought leader is someone who comes up with a great idea or strategy but may or may not communicate this to others. In contrast, someone who can lead people is a connector, a communicator – empowering others to bring out the best in them.

Take a look at your business. Are you focused too much on the technical and strategic instead of maximising the potential of the people that work for you? Having too much of a narrow view on what’s good for the business can be detrimental to growth and career progression.

If a team of people with a diverse skillset can collaborate well, and are fully bought into the company’s vision and strategy, then performances will improve. This will have a positive impact, not only on individuals but also on business results. You get there by having leaders that concentrate on their people skills and who leave the operational tasks to others.

Thanks to Neil Croft’s Monday blog for inspiration.

Call us on 01865 881056 or email us at info@leaderslab.co.uk if you would like to discuss this issue in more detail.