Everything you need to know about Leadership
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Everything you need to know about leadership
In this 25 page guide we talk to you about key aspects of leadership, offering tips and insight into what it takes to become an effective leader, and how to navigate through inevitable change.
Your FREE downloadable guide will cover the following leadership topics:
- What makes an effective leader?
- Coaching as a leader
- The benefits of leadership for the business and for the employee
- Leading through crisis
- Becoming a virtual leader
- The new age of agile
- Leading when you’re depressed
- Leading beyond the glass ceiling
- Toxic leadership
- Continuous development as a leader and choosing the right training partner
But first of all, what is leadership?
Leadership is loosely defined as a person’s ability to guide others and maximise the efforts given to their team, for them to achieve a shared goal. A leader in business will help themselves and others to do the right thing, they will support and encourage, they will provide clarity and focus, and they will be committed to inspiring their team and creating aligned goals and visions.
Leaders must build inspiring goals and objectives that not only support business development but also develop the skills of their team. Your attitude here is important as it sets the precedent for your team, leaders need to act accordingly whilst continuing to look ahead and be proactive.
In order to build these goals and objectives, leaders must focus on the strengths and opportunities of their organisation and review their current situation along with how they think the industry will develop.
An effective leader must also motivate their people and encourage them to buy into the set goals and objectives, manage the delivery of the goals and objectives, and coach and build their team so that they’re more effective at achieving the set goals and objectives.
It is also very important that you have procedures in place to help you recognise and praise your team for their hard work and commitments, whilst having the opportunities and infrastructure in place to develop them.
What it means to coach as a leader, and why it’s so important
As a leader it’s part of your job to determine whether your department or team are meeting your expectations and performing as they should be.
As leaders, it is certainly our responsibility to identify and clarify any problems, but it is not always our responsibility to solve them. Using a kind coaching approach, you can connect with your team and define the reasons why things aren’t as good as they should be and how you can move forward from this. To get the most out of your coaching session, you should revise a list of questions you want to cover with your team and start asking around – getting their input can really help boost team engagement and empower your team.
As well as providing practical support, coaching can help leaders process, rather than avoid, their negative emotions. This move will significantly improve their chances of success within their role.
How does a business benefit from effective leadership?
When effective leadership is embedded within an organisation the workplace is deemed a good team environment and here is where business owners will really see the benefits of their investment into the development of their leaders.
But how will you and your team benefit from effective leadership?
Benefits to leader:
- Increased productivity within your workforce,
- Improved communications as you build a level of trust with your team,
- Increased emotional intelligence; meaning you will have the knowledge to read yours and other people’s emotions and respond accordingly,
- Build a reliable and competent workforce,
- You will experience higher job satisfaction,
- Regular achievement of individual and team goals.
Benefits to employees:
- Improved confidence from empowerment,
- Improved motivation through having a dedicated leader and working towards a shared goal,
- Greater communication between you and your leader,
- Increased innovation and creativeness through being supported by your leader,
- Your leader will have the ability to develop your skillset, so you can take on new challenges,
- Greater sense of job satisfaction and achievement from recognition and praise.
If you’re interested in learning more about coaching, take a look at our CMI Level 7 Coaching and Mentoring course.
Leading through a crisis
In times of crisis leaders are forced to think and act in a way that feels unnatural.
Whether that crisis is economical, technological, product/service related or of more recent times, a health pandemic, crisis demands that leaders react quickly. Taking to their emergency response battle stations and adapting as the new factors set in.
In order to lead through a crisis, leaders are required to remain calm and maintain their perspective on the bigger picture.
As a leader, you need to understand yourself and your value system before others. Start by asking yourself, what strengths do you have which might be valuable to those around you?
- Are you a swift decision-maker who thrives being on the sharp end of operations?
- Are you the calming voice who will look to the facts and ensure common sense prevails?
- Are you the one who will inspire others and deliver the message of fortitude and hope?
- Are you the leader who ensures that the safety of people is put first and that the necessary procedures are followed for fair outcomes?
From here you can identify what strengths you can bring to your team and how you can best deploy them.
We have sourced tips from our expert leadership and coaching tutors, to support you in leading your team through challenging and uncertain times.
1. Understand your role as a leader
Think about who looks to you for leadership and consider what they need from you – the more guidance and clarity you can provide your team with will be crucial for moving forward during the crisis.
2. Mastering fear
Don’t deny your fears but understand them and apply rationality to them. Calm urgency beats panic. Also understand that others around you may be in a state of fear themselves.
3. Communicate effectively
During the early phases of change, it is vital to communicate regularly and clearly, using evidence where possible and detailing which steps are being taken and why.
4. Be transparent
Explain what your organisation is doing about the crisis – the more open you are with your team(s), the more trusting they will be of you during crisis times. This will also help you keep your rapport with them and allow you to continue to build on your working relationships.
5. Be present. Be visible
As a leader it’s important that your team know where to find you should they need you. Take the recent outbreak of coronavirus, many businesses were forced to close, and their employees relocated to home working. During a time of change, your team need to know that you’re there for them, even if it’s virtually.
6. Demonstrate emotional intelligence
Have empathy for others and reach out where you feel you can. Help your team come through the crisis and really understand their needs and requirements. The more support you give, the more productivity you’ll get in return.
7. Look after yourself
Be kind to yourself and take steps to support your own resilience and sustainability – diet, sleep, exercise, mindfulness, humour, perspective, focus on the opportunities. Attend to the basics.
8. Consider behaviours and how to use them to influence
An effective leader understands and regulates their own behaviours, but critically they can also harness the abilities of those around them towards a common goal or objective. This is difficult to achieve if you’re not feeling resilient and robust yourself. In a crisis, leaders need to be conscious of the wellbeing of those around them, but also themselves.
9. Be realistic and forward thinking
Do what you can, this will serve you well; don’t ruminate on what you can’t do.
Build a future crisis plan and allocate resources, it pays to be prepared!
11. Finally, don’t go it alone
If you’re struggling to process the implications of what is happening, reach out for help. Techniques such as professional coaching can be hugely helpful in times of pressure and consequence. This could be for you and for others around you. If you are struggling with identifying what your best approach is or you want to refresh your leadership skills, then please feel free to contact us. It has been proven that executive coaching training results in leaders reporting heightened self-confidence, resilience and increased goal attainment with reduced feelings of depression and anxiety.
Our CMI Level 7 Leading Through Crisis programme is the ideal course for learning how to lead effectively whilst navigating change.
Becoming a virtual leader
Leading virtually has been around since the dawn of technology, but as time has gone by, we’ve seen it become easier than ever for businesses to have remotely based teams. At the start of 2020 many businesses had to move their whole workforce online as a result of Coronavirus – enter the rise of virtual leaders!
Becoming a virtual leader, are you doing it right?
If virtually leading your team is new to you, it’s important for you to remember that there’s a period of transition you must go through. Remember your
knowledge and skills that make you an effective traditional leader, will transfer over and improve as time goes by. Start your transition by setting out your communications plan. Prepare your communication plan by setting out which days your team calls are on and at what time, along with which mode of communication you’re going to be using. Although you and your team can’t be in the same room for your meetings, this shouldn’t stop you from catching up on the week’s activities. As a virtual leader, you should be regularly meeting with your team.
The number one thing to remember for effective virtual leadership is that communication is key!
Developing trust whilst working remotely and leading virtually can be very tough. Virtual relationships need a bit of extra attention, as a leader you need to remember the individual needs of your team. Virtual leaders must always be willing to make themselves accessible and available to their team, which will be hugely beneficial to you in the long run, as you will encourage a more open and honest working environment, with the opportunity to get lots of feedback.
Virtual leadership is very different to office leadership. You need to give your team more clarity and support than usual. Your team need to know what’s expected of them and the deadlines they have in place. As a virtual leader, having deadlines will give you more peace of mind that your team are working from home. Before sending your team their tasks ask yourself these quick questions…
Are the tasks clearly defined? Will each member of your team clearly understand their specific task? Have you clearly outlined the deadlines? And does your team know how the process for reporting or submitting their work?
Finally, don’t forget to empower your team! When leaders are out of the office and virtually communicating with their team, it’s common for leaders to micro-manage their team. To ensure that they are fully in control and know where each team member is up to with workload.
Whilst it is important for team leaders to have a complete oversight of their team and where each person is up to, it’s also equally important for team members to feel they can make decisions about their work, which might take too long for them to communicate with their leader and team.
As a virtual leader, the more effective you are at leading your team, the more you will start to understand and take advantage of the benefits virtual teams can bring businesses.
To support the increase in remote and home working we now deliver all of our courses via the Virtual Classroom. You can see all of our virtual classroom courses here.
The New Age of Agile Leaders
During times of change or uncertainty it’s very difficult for business leaders to foresee what the economic and social environment will look like in the coming months but what they can be certain of is that our circumstances will change continuously and significantly for the foreseeable future and leaders need to be ready to respond with a more agile approach.
Traditional ‘waterfall’ project management involved leaders coming up with ‘perfect’ and detailed plans, and cascading the deliverables down through the organisation, via layers of middle management to front-line teams.
The corporates were finding that by the time their ideas were hitting the development stage they were either no longer relevant for the marketspace, or competitors had already jumped in and seized the initiative. They realised that the old frameworks resisted, rather than engaged with change, and were too rigid in an increasingly fickle and unpredictable digital age. When they landed on the idea that volatility and uncertainty needed to be embraced rather than resisted, the Agile Manifesto was born.
As organisations find themselves thrown into a level of uncertainty perhaps never experienced before, the principles of Agile have become even more relevant. The central idea is that rather than try to develop a perfect blueprint (which may or may not work), businesses should put together a workable plan, fast, and then test it with clients who will be willing to experiment, and give fast, honest feedback.
Agile teams examine this feedback at the first opportunity, adapt their plan, and iterate forwards. The product of plan improves, incrementally, every time this ‘experiment’ takes place.
Client feedback is the measurement of success; they will tell you, every time, whether the concept is working, and what needs to change.
Since Coronavirus emerged we can see this philosophy in play in many areas of work; in how the NHS has increased front line capacity, in how businesses have repurposed to develop ventilators, etc. and in how the government is engaging with businesses to keep them going in the short term to enable longer term recovery. None of the plans are perfect, and nor should they be when speed is of the essence, but provided feedback is gathered and analysed, the quality of the solution will always improve.
As businesses begin to rise to the challenge of remodelling, planning for a ‘perfect’ product will be costly, time consuming, and laden with risk. However, developing an early stage prototype (the minimum viable product) can significantly limit these negative factors. As ‘early adopter’ clients engage with an idea, their feedback will help us to develop new business initiatives that we know are fit for purpose, rather than hope will be.
To thrive in this age of uncertainty, rather than trying to develop the perfect product of plan, consider the Agile approach as an alternative. Learn more about agile leadership on our Agile Projects Leadership programme.
Leading when Depressed
Almost all leaders will face periods of trauma, doubt or of more recent times crisis in their career.
There is a greater awareness of mental health issues in the workplace, but unfortunately the ugly stigma remains. Working with our coaching expert, James Willerton, we have come up with a guide to support leaders that are feeling low or depressed. Leaders have a very specific expectation in their role, a set of responsibilities not only for themselves but to those around them. The needs of their team and wider colleagues don’t alter when the leader is feeling low. Distinguishing between whether you are in a state of depression or just having a couple of bad days is hard.
Although you might think it to be a very easy distinction, you would be forgiven for overlooking a few key symptoms of depression.
Some occupational symptoms of depression include:
- Pervasive feelings of isolation,
- Consistently negative feedback from others (perceived and real),
- Looking to find clouds for every silver lining,
- Ruminating: being unable to let things go,
- Consistent usage of derisory terms and language,
- Sleep issues: struggling to hold a sleeping pattern and being troubled by dark dreams,
- Knowing what you need to do but being unable to do it,
- Escapism and compulsive behaviour (drugs, alcohol, gambling etc),
- Becoming overly aggressive or seeking to avoid situations rather than deal with them,
- Irrational or obsessive consideration of what others are thinking or saying about you,
- Difficulty in appreciating the position of others, or jealousy over our perception of their lot in life compared to ours.
Perhaps the most important step is recognising and accepting the truth of your state of mind. From here you can build on yourself. As a leader when you’re not feeling at your best it’s hard to remain authentic, inspirational, trustworthy and committed to developing your team. These traits aren’t completely lost when leaders are low, but they do become challenging. You will start to ask yourself…
- How can we be authentic when we have lost our belief?
- How can we inspire others when we lack energy, self-esteem and hope?
- How can we be trusted if we distrust others?
- How can we support development in others without a solid foundation for ourselves?
It’s very common with depression, for leaders to lose their sense of purpose, where a drifting feeling will start to manifest in the leader’s behaviours and the language they use.
You may still do and say what you usually would, but it would take more effort and as a leader you would start to feel unauthentic and might be seen as a hypocrite by your team.
Usually when people consider a leader, they see that individual as offering solutions to their problems and bringing emotional commitment to their beliefs. People believe leaders should offer confidence and conviction and communicate a vision of a desire future state. If you’re feeling depressed, it’s common to feel paranoia, withdrawal and rejection when trying to establish trust.
As a leader, if you were to feel depressed you would start feeling betrayed by others. And if you’re hurting and vulnerable, you will tend to put effort into avoiding the risk of making it worse. Sometimes, you need to recover your strength before you can risk being let down again; or maybe you need to reflect and learn more about yourself before you risk letting others down again.
So, you’ve accepted there’s a problem and have a vague understanding of the triggers. What do you do next?
Let’s start with improving your authenticity. You should take the time to re-calibrate, review your visions and values; what’s important to you? Define and commit new behaviours that align with your values, make a conscious effort in your team communications and be transparent. Only commit to actions you can complete and worry less about what you can’t control.
Inspiration. There are practical exercises you can look at that focus on visioning, motivation, strength building and building positive regard both for yourself and those around you. You should start with articulating your vision, discovering and focusing your sources of motivation and those of your team. Learning positive regard and improving your physical, intellectual and emotional well-being.
Next you must build up trust, on a basic level. People need to feel safe, feel valued and feel heard. When we’re depressed and those lights are dimmed outside, it can be especially challenging to genuinely empathise with others even if we do have higher natural empathy. You need to understand your own and others’ values/behaviour systems and focus on the common ground and shared goals if you wish to start building trust again.
Finally, you should dedicate time to developing others, this will be your biggest challenge in terms of motivation and effort as it requires an investment of your time.
Your best approach here is coaching, by learning to coach professionally, you can better tap into future-orientated actions and find individual solutions to problems.
Remember, all of the techniques discussed require effort to materialise. The central question you will need to answer as a leader struggling with depression is, why? What is my purpose here? Where am I trying to go? How do I want to behave?
As we’ve mentioned above, almost all leaders will face periods of trauma, pressure, doubt and of more recent times crisis during in their career. As a leader you should be very mindful of your own mental health during this time and seek out the right advice if you are feeling low or depressed.
Leading through the glass ceiling
Female leaders will come across the term ‘glass ceiling’ time and time again.
In one of her first blogs, our associate tutor, Dr Victoria Smith-Collins spoke about the glass ceiling and how effective leadership can propel women to break the effect. Victoria highlighted a staggering fact that there are almost four times more men than women in Britain’s highest-paid posts, clearly displaying the extent of the glass ceiling in leadership.
A wide interplay of factors have been documented to have created this status quo. And it appears that there is no ‘quick fix’ solution – the TUC federation of trade unions predicts it will take around 60 years to achieve pay parity between men and women.
This shouldn’t deter woman from reaching higher, it should drive motivation to get those higher-paying leadership roles, which can be achieved through developing your skills, refining your knowledge and bringing innovation to your role and team.
As a leader, you should be encouraging your team, especially women, from a young age to aim for high-paying careers. Providing them with the opportunities, guidance and support they need to develop and become an effective member of your team. As a leader, your actions, behaviours and attitudes will define your team and your position within the team, you should become their role model and lead them to the next step of their career.
If you’re looking to develop your leadership skills, any of our leadership courses would allow you to improve your impact and performance as a leader, whilst enhancing your career development opportunities.
A toxic leader is someone who engages in constantly negative behaviours. If systematic and repeated, toxic leadership can cause psychological harm for their followers.
Expert leadership and psychology tutor, Alex Firmin, shared his views with us on toxic leadership and what you can do if you experience a toxic leader. Recent studies have shown that working for a toxic leader not only affects professional and occupational fulfilment, it can have wide ranging effects on your mental health and well-being. If you have worked for a toxic leader, you will know how it can undermine your confidence, cause anxiety and distress, and if unaddressed, can lead to long term effects such as clinical depression.
Toxic behaviours include, but are not limited to, intimidating, bullying, manipulating, micromanaging, arrogance, and engaging in abusive or unethical behaviour. Toxic leaders may be narcissists or even sociopaths; people with no conscience who see their employees only as tools to be used to achieve their selfish objectives.
If you’re ever a victim of toxic leadership, would you know what to do?
Evidence suggests that those who have fallen victim of toxic or abusive leaders tend to take one of ﬁve coping strategies.
These coping strategies include, but aren’t limited to:
- Ingratiation: ‘I just worked harder, longer, and tried to please’
- Direct communication: ‘I stood my ground and defended myself when confronted’
- Avoidance of contact: “The section in which I worked tended to work around the person, forming our own informal work groups to solve problems and make the work happen”
- Support seeking: “I found one other colleague, with whom I could debrief and that made things more bearable.”
- Reframing: “I have focused on what I can get out of a bad employment situation”
When an individual feels they are in an uncontrollable situation, they are likely to revert to avoidance-focused coping strategies, such as taking leave and eventually leaving the organisation. Which is understandable as not all organisations are well equipped to deal with toxic leadership. But before leaving your job, there are some highly effective actions you can take to overcome toxic leadership.
For the affected employee:
- Problem solving strategies, such as standing your ground, taking an evidence based and calm rational approach, tend to provide the best results,
- Engage with the formal support structures, rather than just informal social support. It may be worth persevering, and it is highly unlikely you are alone in feeling out of control and stressed by the leader’s behaviour,
- Maintain a journal so that you can present clear, evidence-based points and examples. This reflective process may help you to think more clearly about how to address the problem,
- As a last resort you may need to leave the organisation. This is better than allowing your long term mental and physical health to be affected.
Most organisations are engaged in dealing with toxic leadership, and toxic culture. It is recommended that business leaders consider:
- Proactive organisational training programs focusing on effective coping strategies to deal with toxic behaviours,
- Training and support to equip employees with the courage and resilience to address toxic leadership behaviours rationally, using an evidence-based approach,
- Advice on the social and professional support is made clearly available to employees,
- An emphasis on the importance of taking responsibility for maintaining personal health and well-being will equip employees with the knowledge and skills needed to prevent them from coming to harm, or to deﬂect harm when it ﬁrst occurs,
- Examine closely how success, and successful leadership, is measured. A focus on the achievement of short-term objectives could be driving toxic behaviour.
If toxic leadership is something you’re experiencing or have experienced in your workplace, our CMI Level 5 Leadership and Management course and CMI Level 7 Senior Leadership Programme delve into the subject of toxic leadership in more detail.
Continuous development as a leader
It’s important that you choose the right training partner to support with your development as a leader. You’ll want a reputable training provider that can deliver a memorable quality learning experience, and here are some things to think about when making your decision:
- Reputation and reviews. Look for a partner with a good bank of testimonials, independent reviews, and case studies.
- Expertise. Training providers are only as good as the tutors delivering the learning. Make sure you’re training with industry experts with years of experience across multiple sectors, that are also continually looking to improve themselves.
- Accreditation’s and recognition. Ideally your course will be accredited or recognised by an authority in the education sector, such as a university or an institute. Even if you choose not to opt for an accreditation, at least you know the course content has passed rigorous quality checks.
- Account management. You want the peace of mind knowing that you’re booking onto a course that will meet your learning and development needs. An account manager can talk you through the learning outcomes of each course and match them against your requirements and expectations.
- Accessibility. Learning should be accessible to all, whether it is delivered face-to-face in easy access venues across the UK or delivered online via the virtual classroom.
At In Professional Development, we pride ourselves on delivering against all the key factors when it comes to choosing a quality learning partner. We deliver a range of accredited, and non-accredited leadership and management courses that are suited to senior professionals across every sector.
Our courses are designed to strengthen the mindset and skill set of the delegate, providing practical tools and strategies for implementation within your organisation. We work with academic partners and governing bodies to offer a quality learning experience with industry recognised qualifications.
Our qualifications are flexible and are tailored around your professional and personal commitments. Making access to quality higher education and training easy than ever before.
Please get in touch to see how we can help meet your learning and development needs.