Leadership is a skill that can be taught – and certainly needs to be developed, says Brigadier (retired) Nicky Moffat
Leadership is everyone’s business
Speaking at conferences, I’m often surprised to discover how few of the audience consider themselves to be leaders. CEOs and Heads of Department will define themselves as such but I rarely find what I call a true culture of leadership, where the principle of leadership at all levels and by all is understood and embedded throughout the company.
As an Army officer, I had months of training in how to lead before I got anywhere near soldiers and my first assignment. Further leadership training then underpinned progression at each stage of my 27 year’s military service.
Soldiers deemed ready for promotion attended training too - to develop the leadership and management skills appropriate to responsibility at the next rank. In fact all personnel, whatever their specialism, (logistician, HR, engineer etc) were trained to lead.
So my background leads me to view everyone who has responsibility for others (as a line manager, or heading up a team or project for example) as a leader. In my experience, leadership is everyone’s business, because it helps generate operational (and business) momentum and build teams. None of us is as smart as all of us.
What does good leadership look like…?
People think ‘But I’m not like Winston Churchill/MartinuLuther King/Steve Jobs/Maggie Thatcher…etc’. That’s fine…in fact they should perhaps be grateful. You don’t have to lead like other people, not least because there is often little joy or success in trying to be someone you’re not. If you lead in a way that’s appropriate to your role and authentic and natural to you, you are far more likely to thrive personally and to inspire those for whom you’re responsible.
The key thing is to develop your understanding of - and accordingly your confidence to display -good leadership behaviours. You may have access to a company leadership training programme but, if not, one of the best ways to learn is to reflect on the behaviours of people who inspire and motivate you - as well as on the negative traits of those who do not.
Thinking positively, your role models might be people who: have mastered their brief…know where they’re headed…are able to make timely decisions (indeed a decision at all)…communicate clearly and effectively…consult, seeking your input to decisions…have the courage to embrace and drive change…empower, show appreciation and value your work…people who don’t micro manage…who are positive and supportive…who energise you and who make you want willingly to go the extra mile.
That may be your dream boss. It is also, of course, the leader that your team, your reports and your bosses are looking for in you. So, seek to replicate those excellent behaviours and aim to be the very best version of ‘you’ that you can be. Play to your strengths but look too to deal with any areas of personal development - whether actual or perceived. Get it right and, in career terms, you will hone your competitive edge. You can also expect to inspire your team, for whom you should strive to be a role model too.
Reward Live 2015
I’m delighted to have been asked to speak at Reward Live 2015 and look forward to developing some of these points and others, as well as answering your questions. I’m not going to talk about leadership theory - you can read any number of books on that. My aim is to give you food for thought to consider in the context of your own career journey - to be the best you can be.
In outline, I’m going to talk about what I learnt from my experiences in a series of increasingly senior and complex leadership roles. I’ll talk about the challenges I faced along the way (including as a woman in a very male-dominated environment) and how I overcame them. I’ll also offer some practical tips on career progression planning, because taking personal ownership of your career puts you where you need to be - in the driving seat. In essence, I’m a great believer in the power of personal endeavour - you really can make your own luck.