Thoughts on Leadership

Coach K

Time to read: 5 mins

Last year I had a close friend of mine (Ryan) recommend a book called “Leading from the Heart” by Mike Kryzyewski (illustrated above).  Ryan has completed his MBA and has spent some time as a consultant, he described the book as one of the best he has read on the topic of leadership.

So with such a glowing endorsement I purchased and finished the book late last year.

Unlike some of the other topics that I have written about, leadership has a major element and without it that topic does not exist. That element is other people.  Leadership needs people, without it you are the leader of nothing.

What determines a good leader from a bad or incompetent one is the people that they lead.

With that being said I thought that I’d take some time in identifying the attributes and characteristics of a leader.  You can use these six characteristics to do a self-assessment or an assessment on those that have a leadership role.

And because we are all people, the position or title we hold in the work place is irrelevant.  We should all be able to identify these leadership qualities within ourselves and our co-workers.


#1.  A leader uses inclusive language

A leader will use inclusive language, when acknowledging a job well done.  The goals that a leader sets are not his own, or by higher management;  a leader has the ability to create and convey goals so that they become shared goals among each team member.

When things don’t go to plan, a leader won’t single out individuals, instead ‘if one person fails, then we all fail” approach is adopted.  This line of thinking shifts the focus on helping out other team members as opposed to just looking out for themselves.


#2.  A leader admits their own mistakes

Leaders can sometimes make the wrong  decision or set the team off in the wrong direction.  In these circumstances a leader should not make excuses or blame others (by the way blaming others is the quickest way to destroy trust).

A leader has the humility to admit mistakes as their own and openly and honestly apologise for them.  Unlike making up their excuses and blaming others which only creates hostility, this vulnerable act builds trust between them and the team and shows that they truly have the best interests of the their team before their own interest.


#3.  A leader make time for others 

A leader makes time for others because they understand the importance and value of the people who work for them.  They understand that people are most effective when they are working ‘for someone’ and towards a shared goal.  Connection is important, it’s hard to be engaged with someone you can’t relate to or to something that you don’t believe in.


#4.  A leader shouldn’t have too many rules

Another aspect of leadership is decision making, which is sometimes avoided for multiple reasons, here are a few that come to mind:

  1. It’s time consuming
  2. Requires effort and investigation
  3. Has consequences
  4. Requires someone to take responsibility

Generally when you see someone that implements and advertises a lot of rules, they generally do so to avoid making decisions, which in turns allows them to avoid responsibility and avoid consequences.

Clearly avoiding the decision making process for such reasons does not conjure up images of a modern day Gough Whitlam or Tim Cook.


#5.  A leader is always positive and motivates others

A leader has the ability to stay positive. Which is easy enough to do while everything is smooth sailing and going to plan but it can only be demonstrated when things go wayward or when unplanned events occur.

I remember working on a small team as a Business Analyst.  It was a Wednesday and on this day we were planned to do a production environment update for the first time. There was quiet a bit of planning leading to this event.

And so Wednesday morning came and we heard  that the Release Manager (who plans and manages the days proceeding) was sick and would not be coming into the office.  Our immediate reaction was:

‘What are we going to do… Who will manage the deployment… (and finally) We will just have to postpone, there is no other option’

We waited until the project manager came in and to my surprise he took all of the news with a smile and said:

Well, this is a good opportunity to test our contingency plan.  We will have a lot more of these deployment in the future and our Release Manager may not always be available’


#6.  A leader treats his team like family

I have left this one till last, because it’s only on the rare occasion that these situations exist and even rarer that you have the opportunity to be a part of.

If this can be achieved it is the pinnacle of any team.  A lot of businesses ‘talk about’ this concept but few will actually ‘be about’ this concept.  So much can be said about the benefits of having a family type environment in the workplace that it deserves to be a topic on its own (maybe for another time).

Leading into my the final thoughts take a moment to think about your own family and the lengths you go to ensure their happiness, well being and safety.  Think about those that have done the same for you, most likely it will be a parent or maybe your partner or sibling.


Final Thoughts

I know (like our workplace) we can’t always choose our family but we can choose our behaviour and how we choose to treat others.  Most of the points made in this article (e.g. making time for others, not having too many rules, being positive)  are naturally associated with family.

Adopting such behaviours is what makes family important and something that we want to be a part of, which leads me to think:

Is there any reason why we shouldn’t try to bring the same behaviours into the workplace..?   Or maybe it’s someone else’s job to think about.

A job for a leader perhaps…







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