LEADERSHIP LESSONS A YEAR IN PART III : ON LEADING

The last three years have been an incredible test of my leadership skills.  I had been a manager for over a decade but three years ago, I had this realization that managers lead projects and leaders lead people.  Leading projects is easy.  Leading people is hard.  And for most of us, requires a lot of practice.  In the last year, I have had the privilege of leading a really large team charged with a really hard task.  We have worked long hours, flexed around constantly changing priorities and rallied around a unified mission of turning FTD around.  In this post, I want to jot down some key things I have learnt about leading people through change.

On Leading:

1. Put People First : Focus on results and focus on people need to go hand in hand.  Caring about each person on your team is as critical as caring about high priority projects.  Sometimes, even more critical.  A manager works to maximize the output of each individual.  A leader's works to maximize the potential of each individual.  As someone once told me, “If I take care of my people, they will take care of the business.  If I don’t take care of my people, they will take care of themselves and there will be no one taking care of the business.”  This is an adaptation of a Richard Branson quote and one of the most important things I have learnt in my quest to become a better leader.

2. Hire Superstar Deputies : Scaling as a leader cannot happen without a team of trusted deputies.  As a leader, you are only as strong as the strongest members of your team.  Especially in turnaround situations, it is essential to have what I call "sharks" who will chase every problem down and won't get scared away by the complexity or discomfort of difficult decisions.  So, if you don’t have this when you join a team, make it a priority to find and hire one as soon as possible.  It is the single most important thing you can do for yourself and your team.

3. Encourage 360 Feedback : Giving consistent and constant feedback as well as praise is a really important part of a leader's job.  This takes time, it takes courage and it takes kindness.  The best way to create openness to feedback is to ask for feedback yourself.  And no matter whether its good, bad or ugly, thank the person who gave you that feedback,  This is the most powerful way to signal that even feedback that is critical is a gift.

4. Embody the Culture : As a leader, people are constantly taking their cues from you.  Are you fully present and actively listening in meetings? If not, others will also multitask.  Do you treat everyone with kindness and respect? If not, people will take that as permission to treat each other disrespectfully.  Do you address performance problems head on? If not, people will stop caring as much about meeting performance standards.  Early on, be very clear about your team's cultural values and then consistently reinforce them. "The culture of any organization is shaped by the worst behavior the leader is willing to tolerate" -- Steve Gruenert and Todd Whitaker, School Culture Rewired

This is the last post in my Leadership Lessons a Year In series.  You can read Parts 1 and 2 here and here.  Thank you for taking the time to read these posts that have been incredibly fun to put together.  I will leave you with this quote that summarizes the points above : “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader” - John Quincy Adams

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