Archive for August, 2010

Practising the art of leadership

August 19, 2010

Last 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

Seems 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.

(Images courtesy of Feelart & digitalart /

What are the top 3 features of an emerging leader?

August 9, 2010

Last month I asked the question, via Twitter, “What do you think are the top 3 features of an emerging leader?”

Before I share the responses and my own thoughts, I will provide a brief context. At the time I was about to go into a coaching session with an enthusiastic young teacher, at the end of her NQT year, who was looking to develop her leadership skills in preparation for leading a core subject from September.

My personal view is that emerging leaders can appear at any level; you don’t have to be in a position of middle or senior management. During my experience working in the education sector I have seen many examples of emerging leadership, from observing a student teacher influencing staff and pupils to get behind, and take part in, his after-school music club; to a 2nd year teacher inspiring colleagues during her leadership of a residential trip. With both teachers, the key features were energy, enthusiasm and ideas.

The teacher I was coaching certainly had energy and enthusiasm, but she also had doubt and uncertainty, and an unhelpful abundance of ‘why should they listen to me?‘ This was purely down to her feeling inexperienced and lacking in some confidence. As we talked, she realised it wasn’t about having all the answers; she focused on the areas she did feel confident in and how she could build on this in practical terms. We put together a programme for the year and she left feeling more assured and more certain about how she could tackle (and enjoy!) her new leadership role.

Turning now to the responses to my question, thanks to @pkainsworth, @helenbett, @camlecolorado and @stevewn for sharing your thoughts. The common themes were having humility and energy. Others features suggested included:

  • empathy
  • moral values based on conviction
  • listening
  • visibility
  • integrity
  • entrepreneurial

I would suggest that many of these qualities and skills are reflected in Jo Owen’s Foundations of Leadership (see ‘How to Lead‘), which include:

  • manages upwards and supports others
  • is self-aware and adaptable
  • has drive / ambition
  • finds solutions
  • sells ideas
  • is loyal and reliable

Owen adds that as emerging leaders become leaders, they maintain these behaviours, as well as learn/develop new ones and in my next blog, Practising the Art of Leadership, I will explore these further.

But to conclude for now, my top 3 features of an emerging leader would be summarized by The Three I’s, though not for one minute am I suggesting leaders are selfish!…

  • Influencing (through skills/qualities such as empathy, listening and integrity)
  • Inspiring (with energy and enthusiasm)
  • Ideas (including being innovative and having an objective evaluation of own ideas as well as those of others)

I welcome your thoughts / experiences on this topic.

Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut /