Leadership philosophy ANYONE can understand

This week I was asked about my personal views on leadership. For me, leadership is something that is almost on autopilot, so to be asked to describe something that I need to do each day, I initially found it quite hard. Firstly, a leadership conference held this week had named me as an inspirational leader and the presenter shone the light in my direction as I literally walked into the room asking me all sorts of questions; and secondly, at dinner that very night where my nephew (who was applying for student leader at school) needed to know everything about my leadership – in-between rounds of salads, steak and sushi. Being put on the spot across both of these scenarios was the best thing that could have happened – as I got the clarity needed to describe my philosophy on leadership in way that isn’t text book guff, but ultimately makes sense to me and in the way I put my leadership into action…

Leadership is a performance. It’s being on stage, directing resources with energy and confidence that leave people wanting more…

For me, there is only one thing you need to remember: leadership is a performance. It’s being on stage, directing resources with energy and confidence that leave people wanting more. When I was growing up, the family household was a buzz with music from Michael Jackson. Watching one of his interviews, I remember Michael distinctly saying that for him, he is most alive when on stage – the focus, practice, energy, quick thinking and directing was addictive. There is little room for error, the crowds have high expectations and everyone on the stage and back of house must be in sync to ensure the performance is delivered to a standard that people expect. I feel like I am that performer, in the car, on a Monday morning, driving to my stage. My direct reports or immediate colleagues /peers are my back stage and onstage teams, and the crowds are the customers and wider organisation. From 8am to 6pm I am on stage, delivering the best performance I possibly can. It’s a performance that adapts and changes through times of steady growth, crises, and ordinary work days.

There is a lot of research and theory on leadership – a simple search on Google will point you to over 500,000 references and hyperlinks. While each will focus on different angles, perspectives or capabilities, there are some leadership gems I’ve come across that help deliver that stellar performance:

LISTEN to the back stage and onstage people – your teams, colleagues and peers have a distinct set of specialist skills and expertise that if listened to can enhance the leadership performance. Furthermore, their perspective is invaluable as they see you performing and the impact it is having – being able to provide crucial feedback on how to get your performance from good to great. Although the crowd is watching you, the overall experience is heavily reliant on how everyone comes together.

It’s about ENERGY and POSITIVE REALISM. There is no room for you as the leadership performer to get on stage feeling tired, contributing to the whinging or being consistently negative about everything. Energy and positive realism does not mean you walk into the office doing cart wheels talking about how awesome the sun shine is! It is about being solution focused, redirecting people away from negative spaces and into perspectives of hope and possibility – instilling action and accountability. Your people onstage or back stage need to be  moved, inspired and followed up on their actions so they remain accountable for the outcome and responsible for the doing.

Being SUPPORTIVE and APPROACHABLE is just as important as the other points mentioned above. I must be there to provide people with the feedback, support, coaching and performance snapshot that helps them become better at their craft – taking the whole performance to another level. Just because you are onstage it doesn’t mean you can go all diva and isolate yourself and become overbearing on those around you. For me as a leadership performer I must be cognisant of being available and approachable to help people find solutions to their problems and remove barriers that are holding their own performance back.

I’ve been on stage since the age of 19 – leading teams with as little as 2 people, right through to 800+… and I absolutely love it. Sure, there are times when the exhaustion kicks in, things don’t go right, and people exit stage left… but when you are there in that moment as a leader on stage, and every single person is working just as hard as you to deliver that monumental performance to the crowd in front you its just magic, and I’m glad I get to perform over and over again!

What’s your leadership philosophy? Let me know below… Until next time, J.

Dedicated to my nephews Luke and Dylan – love you both more than you will ever know.

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