We all know that we should keep learning as leaders. So I thought it was about time I packaged up some of my leadership lessons and share them with you.
Over my career, I’ve worked in many companies, large and small and have held many different roles. I also spent five years in consulting, giving me access to huge clients, challenging work environments and different cultures.
Here are my top leadership lessons that I hope you can use and apply in your own teams.
Leadership Lesson #1. Sort Out Team Problems Quickly…Don’t Delay
That team member with a body odour problem, or the one that keeps coming in late and leaving early, or maybe it’s those two people that aren’t getting along.
I know it’s tempting to leave it alone.
Maybe that issue you’ve been having might just go away by itself? Not likely. This almost never happens, unless another problem comes along to take its place.
When you fail to take action on problems in your team, you are sending a clear message to your team members:
- That you don’t think there is a real problem
- You think your team members should “suck it up” and just put up with it; or
- You don’t know what to do, so you aren’t doing anything.
All of these are damaging to motivation and morale. And more than likely, they will damage your reputation at the same time.
Solving Problems Doesn’t Mean Taking Knee-Jerk Action
On the other hand, you also don’t want to just take knee-jerk, drastic actions in your team. You still need to consider your options and work out the best approach.
But whatever you do, make sure your team knows that you are taking steps to address an issue. Otherwise, one of the big leadership lessons I learned is that even if you are doing something about a problem, they’ll assume you’re not.
Tip: Solving problems sometimes means you need to have a difficult conversation. If you feel like you aren’t confident or comfortable having the difficult conversations you need to have in your team, Thoughtful Leader is here to help. Check out the Difficult Conversations eBook, to help you tackle the hard conversations sensitively and with confidence. Don’t avoid the difficult discussions… try the eBook today.
Leadership Lesson #2. When Making Change, Play the Long Game
Over my career, I’ve had a few roles where I’ve looked back with some regret. If I had stayed in the role longer and persisted, perhaps I could have made the changes we needed to be successful.
It’s hard to know when you are fighting a losing battle, or whether you just need to be more persistent and try harder.
So before you throw your computer out the window and scream “I’m out of here!”, take a step back and pause.
Remember that significant change takes time, and stop to consider the progress you have made since you started.
Recognise and acknowledge the smaller steps and wins, because they’ll eventually lead you to your destination.
I’ll leave this leadership lesson with a quote from Seth Godin. You can read the full post from Seth here.
“… And every one of those improvements was met with resistance. Every change was fought, tooth and nail. Every one had critics and skeptics and hold outs.
That’s how the world changes. By drips. Persistent, generous, tiny drips.”
Read More: 3 Simple Ways to Influence Change in Your Team.
Leadership Lesson #3. Lead Individuals, Not Teams
It’s tempting to lead your team like it’s a single entity. But of course, it’s not.
Your team is made up of individuals, and they’re all different. They are unique, and one size doesn’t fit all. They’re not like you or me.
Another important leadership lesson I learned was that understanding each individual in your team is important. You can’t motivate them the same way. You can’t pay them all the same amount of attention.
Your more experienced people will want you to let them get on with their work. And the new people will want you to spend time with them, to coach them, and to make sure they’re on the right track.
Make sure you consider each person individually and see how you can adapt your approach to get the best results from everyone.
It takes work, and you won’t always get it right. But you’ll lead a happier, more effective team.
Leadership Lesson #4. Learn How to Say “No”
One of the most important leadership lessons I learned throughout my career is that you can’t do everything. You need to do the important work with the biggest impact.
If you try to do it all and accept everything that comes your way, you’ll be in trouble. You’ll be swamped with work and resentful of your situation.
Your boss will try to dump things on you constantly. And of course the temptation is to take it all on, because it’s good to be helpful.
But when you collapse under the strain, this isn’t helpful for anybody. You need to work sustainably and look out for your own health and wellbeing.
Some people call it “managing up”, pushing back or saying “No”. Whatever you call it, you need to start doing it to free your time and be able to do your best work.
Tip: If you struggle to manage up and push back on unreasonable demands, Thoughtful Leader can help. Check out the Managing Upwards eBook, for tools and techniques to build confidence and help you say “No”. You and your team deserve better… try the eBook today.
Leadership Lesson #5. Take It Easy On Yourself
And coming in at number 5… one of the most important leadership lessons I want you to walk away with.
Early in my career, I’d take failure personally and I would blame myself for things that weren’t necessarily even my fault.
Over time, I learned to let go. Now, I only feel regret if I know I could have done better and I just didn’t put the work in.
There will never be a shortage of people to criticise you, make you feel bad for not getting everything done, or judge you about how your team performs.
Workplaces can be difficult and unpleasant.
Don’t beat yourself up. There are plenty of people who can do that for you.
You need to keep your head up, keep improving and if you fail, try to do better next time.
Leadership is hard and managing people is tough.
You’ll never get it perfect. But you don’t need to be perfect, you just need to try to make tomorrow better than today.
Read More: Why Good Mental Health is a Leader’s Best Friend.
Read More: How Self Doubt Will Make You a Better Leader.
What do you think of these leadership lessons? I’d love to read your comments below, and be sure to share your own lessons too!