Home > Leadership, The Monday Musings Column > what do look for when you need someone to help?

what do look for when you need someone to help?

One of the problems with leadership thinking is that a lot of what is currently being put around comes from people who have studied the subject, but who have never really done it themselves. Would you take golf lessons from someone who had never played? Or someone who had bought a set of clubs and a video and taught themselves the rudiments? Hopefully not.

This difference gets further amplified when someone who has been shown how to do something gets to try and do it. Take a musical instrument; lots of people can get a tune out of one, but how many can really play one? Does someone who does a decent karaoke turn make a good singer? I can drive a car, but whilst we share the same initials, I’m no Jensen Button.

What makes the difference is talent. Good leaders can take the tools and use them to best effect in the same way that any virtuoso does with an instrument.

Most of these self styled leadership experts put across a one size fits all solution which, if you think about it, is fundamentally flawed. Leadership is about leading people. People is plural; it refers to a group of individuals. And that is the key word; individuals.

People are different, and this leads to a real dichotomy for leaders. One the one hand current social thinking is that you should treat everyone equally, but how do you do that when everyone has different needs?

Leadership involves a range of techniques to motivate people according to their own needs. I don’t respond well to people getting angry with me; One of the most effective things ever said to me when I screwed up badly was a very quiet “Bowen, you’ve let us all down. You’ve let me down, but, most of all, you’ve let yourself down”. Other people would treat that with contempt though, and the guy who delivered it knew the difference; there were others on the team who, in similar circumstances, would have been blasted against the wall by a withering stream of invective, but he knew me well enough to know that that would not work on me.

That leader didn’t deliberately set out to teach me how to do it, but the example was there for any of us to follow and adapt for our own use. And I did.

A good leader will know what makes each member of the team tick and will apply the right techniques, but then there is the question of what to do when you face the team all at once. Gung ho speeches don’t do anything for me, but I’ve seen first hand how they can get a team going, and there is a synergy factor that comes into play in those situations, but you have to get it right and catch the mood. No-one can teach you that. It’s about working an audience and you learn by doing (and getting it wrong a few times).

A potentially good leader will have latent talent that can be developed. They then need the opportunity to lead and, for those who get the chance, they have the opportunity to hone their skills. Not all will make it, but it’s better to have tried and failed.

Good leaders don’t necessarily make good teachers, (but someone that teaches classes successfully will be a good leader). If you want to learn about leadership you first have to have the opportunity to do it. If you want help in learning, you need someone who can pass on to you the benefit of their experience.

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