“A more collegial style of leadership is too often characterised as a weakness.”
This was a quote from Archie Brown, author of ‘The Myth of the Strong Leader’, reported in the Guardian newspaper last week, because it’s a book on Bill Gates’s reading list.
Bob Hughes and I interviewed the author a while back – you can listen to it here, and read the book review too.
What struck me at the time was how we get seduced by charismatic leaders. The celebrities; the sportspeople; the men and women in positions of authority.
All of these people can be leaders; absolutely. The potential is there. But there’s a difference between falling for the charisma and really displaying leadership qualities and behaviours.
Over the years we’ve interviewed people who’ve climbed Everest, coached top sportspeople and sailed around the world. The key difference we’ve noticed is between those who focus on their own achievements – great as they are – and the power of being one of the team.
Tracey Edwards MBE, for example, told us that her role of Captain in the Whitbread Round-the-world race in the first women-only crew – was ‘accidental’. There were far more experienced people in the crew than her. She is, of course, being modest. Her engaging leadership style and the way she respects the technical abilities of her crew are second to none.
Tracey is a great motivational speaker too. But that’s often the only thing some celebrities have going for them – the ability to look and sound good.
Today we live in the ‘plasticine’ era – we’ve all got feet of clay. And the media are happy to expose our shortcomings. Especially when we stand up for something, and raise our heads above the media parapet.
As leaders we can be flexible in our approaches, but our values and authenticity need to shine through.
But don’t mistake this collegiate approach with weak leadership. Whether it’s a more collegial, a more coach-like, or more inclusive approach to leadership, engaging leadership draws on the power of the whole team – not one individual.
And it’s why a systematic approach to leadership development matters. Building leadership on a foundation of consistently-observed behaviours that evoke high performance in the people around us is essential.
Leadership qualities build on our emotional intelligence too. Which is why the Forton leadership programme combines emotionally-intelligent leadership styles and competencies, along with the high-performing behaviours.
So whether you need to develop your technical leaders to be more engaging, your sales-force to be more effective, or your managers to get their best out of your people – and you want tangibly better leadership – get in touch. You’ll find us at +44 (0) 345 077 2980 option 1, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.