Monday, September 2, 2013

7 Leadership lessons from the elections

What can the political arena teach us about leadership?  No matter which side of politics you sit and who you consider voting for, there have been many examples of some great - and some very poor - leadership skills on display.

These are some of the key ones that I have noticed over the past few weeks:

1.  Leaders are highly articulate!  They are not only able to present well - they can also formulate their arguments in such a way that they are understandable by a broad audience.  They do not ummmm and ahhhh their way through their pitch - they use a few well chosen words to capture the key messages.

2. Great leaders cut through the nonsense and do not hide behind words that are less than truthful.  It is just so easy to pick up when someone is not quite upfront with what they are saying.  And you know what - that loss of trust plays a huge factor in leadership.  If you want buy-in, creating trust is step number 1.

3. Leaders use their body language well.  They display genuine Duchenne smiles that are go right up to their eyes.  There is nothing worse than some false smile that does not light up your face.  And whether you want to believe it or not, likeability is a strong factor in leadership.  Yes, people who are likeable are able to influence others far more readily.

4. Leaders are there for the long haul and their egos are not the most important part of the equation. Yes, you need to be confident and sure of yourself but no, it is not all about you alone.  In the work context, we know full well how people's egos destroy culture and create dysfunctional teams.

5. Great leaders are aware that eyes are on them all the time.  They do not really have the time to be able to step backstage and have a minor meltdown.  Leaders are quietly confident and minor irritability is well hidden. 

6. We are very quick to form impressions of people so those leaders who are well presented and groomed tend to make that first good impression.  Not great that we should form opinions based on what people look like, but it does happen: ensure that we do put our best foot forward.

7. Don't be afraid to confess to making mistakes.  Leaders make errors - they cannot predict and judge every situation accurately.  Acknowledging mistakes is a way of building up that level of trust and ensuring that lessons are learnt for the future.

SO: for you in your own organisational context - please, oh please, do not repeat any of these leadership mistakes.  It is easy to sit at the ringside and criticise and it is not so easy to act as a leader! Watching these lessons in action is better than reading any book on leadership. They are playing out painfully in the public arena and what we do as leaders plays out in front of our teams. 

Remember that it is time to play to win!  Game on!

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