Follow the Leader – a thing of the past?

Follow the Leader – a thing of the past?

Last week, I went to a talk called ‘Leadership in Times of Change’ which focused on everything from how the definition of leadership has changed to how generational differences affect leadership characteristics. While many interesting facts were raised, I couldn’t help but keep bringing it back to how young women can learn to lead while not in a position to lead. Maurits Kalff, Psychologist at the School of Life (their YouTube channel is well worth a visit btw), opened the conversation by asking an interesting question – is leadership a role or an identity? I certainly believe it is an identity. One that not all people are gifted with naturally but one that can often be developed and nurtured. I wanted to share with you some of the key points that came out of the discussion which can inform our actions and decisions, hopefully helping us to become better leaders by nature, which will help us to land those leadership roles in future.

1. ‘If you fundamentally want to change a business, you must change the behaviour of its people – this is the biggest legacy you can leave’ – Mark Creighton, CEO, Mindshare UK
Mark said this in reference to the role of a CEO but, actually, it is true for any role. It is no easy feat to change the behaviour of a team, especially of a team you are not managing, but it is certainly achievable. By tackling small tasks one at a time and rallying people to your cause who can champion you, you can truly affect change in a business. For example, if you want to make your company more social, why not start by influencing a small group of individuals to use social media more for work. Once you have them on board, there will be a ripple effect. We all know the phrase ‘you have to be the change you want to see’ – in this case, you have to be the change, and bring others along with you!
2. ‘The urgent is driving out the important’ – Andrew Fraser, Director, Mitsubishi Corporation Europe
The senior management of companies have some tough targets to meet, many of them short term (quarterly financials for instance). Because of this pressure, the urgent is often placed before the important in terms of priority. This opens up an opportunity for non-senior staff. Identify something that is important to the organisation – perhaps a project which has been started and parked, then restarted then reparked over and over again. Put your hand up to take a lead on it or at least to have a role. While everyone else is worrying about next quarters financials, you could be delivering a project that will change the way the whole business works – and people will take notice once it’s delivered.
3. ‘Be the connector’ – Anais Hayes, Head of Brand Innovation, Google UK
Being a connector or facilitator is a great way to ‘lead’ without necessarily being the designated ‘leader’. Introduce your manager to an ex-colleague who has similar interests and goals. Who knows what might happen? According to Mark, acting as a facilitator isn’t just of benefit to those you are connecting – it will help to build your confidence and will raise your profile among those you are connecting. Andrew takes this a step further and advises young people to bring in new business. That way, you have an achievement you can own without stepping on anyones toes.
4. ‘Leaders have consistency of vision’ – Mark Creighton
Taking leadership beyond just the workplace, a key trait in leaders is not just the passion they display for their vision but the fact that this vision never changes. It may adapt or develop but never really changes. Be true to yourself and, no matter what others think, stick to your vision. As Chris Michaels, Head of Digital Media & Publishing, British Museum stated, every company tells a story and ‘once that story is no longer true [for you] it is time to make a change’
I hope you find these nuggets of knowledge as relevant and inspiring as I did. I want to leave you with a though that Anais opened her discussion with – ‘Leadership has come out of its ivory tower’. It’s there for the taking, for those of us who will reach out and grasp it.
Have you been given or giving any great advice on what it means to be a leader? Let me know in the comments or on social media with #leadership
P.S Thank you to inmidtown for holding another successful Midtown Big Ideas Exchange event!