Leaders don’t create Followers
I am a 35-year old woman and Director in a law firm that is 132 years old. The field of Law is mostly a male-dominated sphere – however, in our case, we are four female Directors running the show. All four of us have our own leadership styles, yet it somehow works!
Since times immemorial thought leaders have philosophized the topic of leadership and its importance in the world of work. This is especially important when viewed from the context that every aspect of everyday life is a result of decisions made by leaders in varying capacities and sectors. Despite the voluminous discourse on the matter, leadership remains complex and highly nuanced due to its ever-changing characteristic.
Undoubtedly, a one size fits all approach to leadership will never yield the intended result. My approach to leadership is modelled around the following statement by Tom Peters, “Leaders don’t create followers. They create more leaders.” I deduce and actively pursue the following principles from this one statement:
- Focusing on the strengths of each individual member of a team. Each individual has a unique gifting and skill set and a team member’s ability to add value to a team is best enhanced when they do what they thrive in, whilst remaining challenged, to ensure growth. Such an approach builds and strengthens morale amongst team members as they are able to see the real-time impact of their contribution.
- Prioritizing conversation. Humanizing oneself when leading a team builds trust which ultimately impacts the morale and enthusiasm of a team. Continuously seeking to learn more about those you lead creates a sense of belonging and value amongst team members.
- Culture and context take prominence. As much as we appreciate the unique skill set and talents of each team member, it is paramount to understand each person’s approach to working together, to build a sustainable work culture that is inclusive and diverse.
- Building the big picture together. Often there is a tendency to want to limit the understanding of the dream, however, a better approach is to share the full scope of the dream you have as a leader, have those you lead adopt it and take part ownership in actualizing the dream.
“The true mark of a leader is the willingness to stick with a bold course of action — an unconventional business strategy, a unique product-development roadmap, a controversial marketing campaign — even as the rest of the world wonders why you’re not marching in step with the status quo. In other words, real leaders are happy to zig while others zag. They understand that in an era of hyper-competition and non-stop disruption, the only way to stand out from the crowd is to stand for something special.” These tried and tested words of Bill Taylor remain true and serve as a mantra. Beyond the interpersonal requirements of leadership (which are of great importance) a true leader is an innovator that seeks progressive change and a better value proposition.
Ultimately, a leader is a nuanced individual that is hyper intentional about the role they play and the approach(es) used when leading a team!