Thinking the wrong way round

Thinking the wrong way round

Posted: Tuesday 6 May 2014. Author: Capita HR solutions.

It’s now election month. Local and European seats are being fought for, promises are being made (explanations are being given for why old promises were broken) and a determined focus is being placed on convincing the general public why AN Other politician is the one to lead us into a brave new world.

What makes a good leader however? Conventional wisdom would tell you it’s someone single-minded, someone with vision, charisma, authority, wisdom and purpose (I’ll leave you, the reader to gauge if any of our current incumbents fit that profile).

There is, however, a train of thought that the traditional leadership model might benefit from some counter-intuitive thinking. Perhaps some of the following thoughts might be worth considering for both our elected representatives and our business leaders: Intelligence isn’t always that important: sometimes a leader just needs to be able to work hard, be disciplined and organised – while being surrounded by intelligent thinkers.

Creating or maintaining tension can be good: Without tension people don’t challenge the status quo and creativity is predicated on challenging the established order.

Steve Jobs, no stranger to success, suggested “through … incredibly talented people bumping up against each other, having arguments, having fights sometimes, making some noise, and working together they polish each other and they polish ideas”.

Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. this is a questioning world. Nobody who leads is expected to know all the answers. Asking others for help makes them feel involved, feel valued and demonstrates a willingness to learn, even when you having reached the top. It makes leaders human.

But asking for help and then not listening most certainly is: nothing demotivates staff more than being patronised. If you ask for someone’s option then you need to acknowledge the reply (sane or otherwise). At the very worst you have made people feel involved, at best you have picked up invaluable intel for the business.

Criticism can be a good thing. Norman Peal once noted “we’d rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism”. Good leaders accept that they won’t get everything right and appreciate getting a steer before things go too wrong.

Sometimes it’s less important to be right than it is to be clear. If you are trying to solve a problem then your team will value clear instructions on task, processes, time-scales and expected outcomes more than your theory eventually being proved right.

Making people pay for your advice is not necessarily greedy. Benjamin Franklin once said that “most people return small favours, acknowledge medium ones and repay greater ones with ingratitude”. Charging for your time and wisdom places a value on what you are imparting.

And finally... teamwork is just a tool, not a solution to everything. Can you imagine a leader standing up and saying “teamwork doesn’t matter much here” – he would be demonised; and so modern leaders can be brainwashed into thinking that teamwork is the starting point for everything, where everyone gets their say and feels involved. teamwork is noting more than a process, a system, a tool. It’s useful in some cases and obstructive in others. A good leader recognises there will be times that teams are not the basis for decision making and solution finding.


Capita HR solutions