Practising the art of leadership

Thursday, 19th August, 2010

People running up the stairs, but one is the leaderLast week I suggested the top 3 features of an emerging leader were the three I‘s of Influencing, Inspiring and Ideas.

This week I’m looking at the next stage of leading from the middle, where practising leaders develop their skills.

Firstly, I think it’s worth saying you don’t stop influencing, inspiring and having ideas. You continue to build on these while you develop other skills / qualities.

So where is “the middle”? Roles such as team leader, manager, key stage leader …. could all fit into this category. With these positions come demands from at least 3 areas:

  • your team members
  • your line managers
  • other team leaders

The nature of your relationships change, especially if you’ve been promoted from within the organization, and you are now leading and managing staff who were previously on an equal level.

Effective leaders at this level will therefore be developing and honing their relationship skills, as well as showing they can continue to manage day-to-day activities, projects, etc. Several leadership features linked to developing relationships come to mind here, but I’ll give you my top 3….

1. Communication

bigstock-Speech-bubble--vector-illustr-16522394Seems an obvious one, but I am including here the ability to communicate clarity of thought, which means you need to have clear focus and direction for your particular leadership role, as well as be able to effectively communicate your ideas.

When communicating with others, it has greater impact if you can do it in a way which suits their preferred learning style, as it builds rapport well.

If they are more visual – use visual language… “you’ll see what I mean when I show you how this works in practice”.

If they are more auditory, try phrases such as, “when you hear my idea and listen to how I think it could work ….”.

More on these 2 here

Similarly with people who are more kinaesthetic, try ….”you’ll be able to get to grips with it when you use the resources like this….”

To know what preferred learning styles people have, extend your listening skills to include listening out for specific visual, auditory or kinaesthetic phrases they use when talking.

2. Empathizing

The ability to put yourself in someone else’s position is highly valuable when suggesting changes or considering how a new policy or procedure will impact on the current working environment. Knowledge of other’s roles is naturally helpful here, so talking to them about their work (including successes and issues) on an informal basis is a good strategy.

If you can empathize with your team members, peers and line managers, it gives you a head start so you can consider their reactions in advance and think about how to address any issues and minimize potential conflict.

3. Building “followers”

Being a leader implies that you have followers, and I believe you can develop a following in several ways, including:

a) leading by example – I seem to remember having respect for leaders who weren’t afraid to “get their hands dirty” when necessary, and could walk the talk!

b) empowering others – knowing when to give others the space and time to develop their skills, thus building a more effective team. This is often about taking a step back, even when you think you can do the job faster / better, etc. yourself. It’s also about showing you trust them.

c) delivering on your promises – I think this is also linked to building trust. When you say you’re going to do something for someone, ensure you do it. There will be instances when circumstances beyond your control get in the way, but if you are consistently delivering on your promises, those rare times when you can’t shouldn’t be an issue.

So what are your top 3 features of relationship development for practising leaders?

Think about middle managers who’ve inspired you. What was it about them?

I welcome your comments and experiences on this topic.


debbie019 fThank you for taking time to read this blog.

I’m Debbie Inglis, a performance coach, mentor and trainer, working with Heads, Principals, School leaders and their teams to maximise leadership performance, create more effective, confident, and motivated teams … in a way that brings out the best in them.

If you’re interested in my services, please get in touch, and you can read more here.