Leadership Commentator and Employment Lawyer Victoria Hall, of New Law Solicitors, considers whether leadership models should simply go back to basics
If you are interested in the subject of leadership then, like me, you have likely poured over hundreds of different leadership books and articles, listened to speakers, attended workshops and seminars and become completely overwhelmed!
There are so many buzz words, models, diagrams and tests available – do you choose one, mix them up or give up?
To be honest, just the IT skills needed to recreate some of the concepts is beyond me anyway! Shouldn’t good leadership be more simple?
Bringing Leadership ‘back to basics’
I learnt an important lesson a couple of years ago which has transformed my life. I keep coming back to the same position – and I don’t need powerpoint or an excel spreadsheet in order to understand it!
To be the best you can be for others, you need to first make the best of yourself.
To make better decisions, be open to new challenges, lead better, run faster, sleep better, or whatever else you want to do, you have to be prepared to first take an honest look at yourself!
When you understand and control yourself, you can recognise your own competencies and will know how to think, act, feel and react in any given situation.
Anyone can do it, there is no seniority involved, but self awareness can be a hard, ongoing journey, requiring the courage to continually deep dive your own mind-set and hold yourself to account.
You v You
Most of my life has been set in a competitive framework. Sports day, exams, interviews for jobs – You -v- Someone else. Our ego driven society judges success on the failure of others and asks people to succeed where they were not meant to do so.
I have, over the last two years in particular, made my life about You v You. I judge my success and failures against the values I have set for myself and I hold myself to account when I deviate from my course. If I can control me, I can control my life and the influence I have on others and the peace of mind that comes with truly knowing yourself is powerful.
I don’t always get it right. I sometimes want to blame other people for making poor decisions that impact me, my bad luck and life generally not always being fair.
However, by continually exploring myself and how I want to be, I have found that I am more in control of how I think, feel, act and react. I believe I’m also a better leader as a result.
You -v- You is a healthy way for leaders to think.
Overcoming the stress response & learning to collaborate
The chemicals in our brain cause our brain to revert to survival mode when we are stressed or feel out of control. We can function but survival is our focus, so we don’t think flexibly, and we can’t be creative, solve complex problems and so on.
In a state of attachment and calm, we take good risks and we make better collaborators.
I love collaboration. Whether it be within a team, across departments or across organisations. For me it represents people and organisations coming together to deliver the best outcome possible through a mix of skills.
Wouldn’t it be great if all our employees worked from a creative and not competitive mind-set, asking ‘what is good for the organisation’, not ‘what is good for me’?
Like the wind in the sails of a ship, leaders inspire employees to drive the organisation’s purpose. I do a lot of running and when you run into a headwind, you really feel it. When the wind is behind me I often take it for granted but it makes running a whole lot easier and it would be great if it was there all the time.
I’ve seen ‘purpose’ in action when I worked for the RAF. We had a very clear purpose – get aircraft flying. Everyone contributed to that single goal and everyone was important, invested in and felt part of the outcome.
There are even organisations which have no leaders at all. They are run by a few co-ordinators with individuals leading themselves against a strong vision, purpose and set of principles. That is not easy to replicate but it exists.
Training and development
‘Leadership’ starts by leading your life and applying it to the context you are in.
When I train for a race, I have a training plan. Likewise, to grow my ‘mind muscles’ and my leadership skills, I need to train, practice and overcome adversity. I have to allow myself some failures and learn from them, then pick myself up and carry on.
I surround myself with people who inspire me to keep growing. Small steps lead to big distances, but you have to start walking and not be afraid of going back to basics.
Leadership is for everyone
Imagine replacing competition with individual growth and collaboration, especially in this busy, fast paced world. A world where we need to be able to rapidly reinvent our businesses to cope with new technologies, demographic shifts and changing consumer demands.
Mentoring can help, with those mentored later inspiring others, but this is not an elitist game reserved for fast track personnel. Creating an environment that encourages personal growth throughout the organisation will transform people management and L&D into a new strategic function which inspires leadership at all levels.
Imagine a business full of individuals with good judgement and self-awareness. People who are open to learning, can accept strengths and weakness and who strive to always improve, who are willing to face new challenges without fear, willing to fail and try again.
This is more than mere knowledge.
It is an ability to create power through individuals and a common good not limited to economic value. An ability to create thinkers who can influence tomorrow’s management practice – growing talent from within.
There is a place for models and methodologies – but I truly believe leadership starts with the courage to take an honest look at yourself.
About the author
Victoria was initially a Logistics Officer in the RAF, before qualifying as a solicitor, specialising in employment law. Her operational management experience coupled with time spent working as a HR professional has also allowed her to achieve MCIPD, and MCMI accreditation.
With a keen passion for driving success through people, working in the field of employment law and HR has allowed Victoria to concentrate on what she loves doing, helping the business create the right environment for people to thrive and volunteer that discretionary effort needed to drive sustainable success.
At NewLaw Solicitors, Victoria heads up an Employment Law team that listens to what clients want and delivers what they need; putting clients at the heart of everything we do.
Victoria is also a Board Member for the South Wales HR Forum Council.
As a naturally energetic person, Victoria participates in numerous sporting activities and is an active supporter of local charities and support groups. Victoria has a particular interest in promoting equal opportunities and fair play at work.