07 Nov 2015

5 Leadership Lessons from Political Turmoil

The following 5 lessons were highlighted in Kate’s article:

1.            Engagement is key.

2.            Never stop communicating.

3.            Have clear processes.

4.             Have a long-term vision.

5.            Be authentic.

While Kate focused her attention on political examples and related to senior management, I will look at the headings from a supervisor / middle Manager perspective and look at the behaviour and actions that can be applied.

1.            Get to know your people and let them know you – all in the effort to build trust. To me this is the essence of engagement; it is less about communicating and more about building trust. People will not ‘engage’ with you if they do not trust you or believe that you are doing things just for yourself. If you are doing things just for yourself, then perhaps it is best to stop reading here. The more that your team understands you; your moods, your drives, your goals and dreams for the future (and the more you understand theirs), the more likely you are to build trust and engagement. You will also be expected to make the first effort. Trust is like respect, it must be earned, and the first step must be taken by the leader.

2.            Communication is essential, both in written and verbal form. In a world of fast paced email and internet, the art of delivering sharp, concise messages is being lost. It is not less essential, and that is the crucial point. Take the time to prepare what you are going to say, both in meetings and in emails. That does not mean that what you say needs to be scripted to the last word, just be clear in what you are saying and actually get to a point. Nothing drives people away more than someone who talks for talks sake and doesn’t get to the point.

3.            Be clear on what is acceptable and what is not. Nothing frustrates a new team member more than not knowing what they can and can’t do when it comes to processes, decisions, authority and activity. Am I allowed to send email out to clients? Do I have authority to make that decision? Can I approve this or that when the boss is away? A good supervisor provides clear guidance on what can be done and what cannot, and what level of decision can be made in absence. Further to this, explain the reasoning behind your decisions to your team. Knowing your reasons for decisions will provide people with a greater understanding of your intent, and help build the trust mentioned in Point 1.

4.            Know what success looks like. (I wish I had thought of this phrase – and I wish I knew which author I borrowed it from). Everyone knows that we have to have a vision, but what does that look like in real terms. What is it you are striving for and how do you know if you are there?

This is one of the hardest things for supervisors and managers to adapt to; success at lower levels is based upon the ability to ‘firefight’ and get the job done quickly. As a supervisor and Manager, success is more than fixing short term problems. Longer term projects and goals must be achieved to meet the requirements of the team and the business. The more that you can picture what that goal looks like at completion, and the more you can articulate that picture to your team, the more successful you will be.

5.            Accept and embrace both your strengths and your weaknesses. Nobody likes someone who thinks or acts like they are perfect, particularly not in Australia where the tall-poppy syndrome is rife. Yet many supervisors and Managers (particularly when new to the role) assume that they have to be superhuman and right in every instance. The authentic leader is one who uses their strengths to advantage, but isn’t afraid to recognise that they are not perfect and need help with certain tasks. The people that work for you are human as well – they will not think less of you because you are not perfect, they may actually think more of you for recognising it and seeking help or guidance.


Consider the 5 areas of leadership discussed. What is the area that you believe you are strongest? What is the area that you need to develop further to help both you and your team? Would your team rate your strengths and areas of development the same as you have?

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