Next month we’ll be heading north of the border to deliver an opening keynote at the Chartered Institute of Fundraising’s Scottish Conference on Fresh Thoughts on Leadership.
But really – is there anything new to say about leadership? Well, we think there is and here are three thoughts for starters.
Firstly, leadership is a mind-set and a set of actions and behaviours, not a job title. So, if you’re about abandon this blog because you don’t think you’re a leader, stay for a minute longer. You don’t need a team or even a project to lead. Leading can be about the way you bring new ideas to a conversation, notice things others have missed, pick up on an emerging theme and convince others to try an alternate approach. We work with a number of clients who consider their “key influencers” across the organisation, every bit as key to business success as their leaders and managers. You are a leader, you just have to realise where, when and how you do it, to make the most of it and challenge yourself to step up.
Secondly, leadership doesn’t have a particular profile. It used to. When we first got into this game, leaders were easy to spot. You led from the front, directed, demonstrated and knew how to address the crowd – and if that wasn’t your style, you didn’t get the job. This is a dated view of what you now need to lead and our world (in case you hadn’t noticed) has changed. Nowadays, leadership largely means 3 things: authenticity, good self-awareness and the ability to access all areas. We no longer play a role; people want someone genuine they can relate to and who they believe gets them. We don’t want people we have to make excuses for – we want them to know themselves well, accept feedback and work on the warts. If the old-style leader description sounds like you – that’s fine – those things are still needed sometime, just not all the time. Leadership also means listening, adapting, enabling and coaching. At times it means being relationship focussed, at other times, task focussed. There is a place for looking ahead and a place for dealing with what’s in front of you. The point is you need to spot what’s needed and adapt. Again – no one needs the title of leader to do that.
Thirdly, leading and change go hand in hand. You don’t just want to have a tolerance for change, you need to rather like it. Because it’s going to be there whether you like it or not. Leadership thinking embraces change and prepares for it, supports others to be prepared but also realises the impact of fast and constant change (welcome to 2023) so considers how we balance nothing staying the same with helping ourselves and others to look after themselves and avoid feeling stressed all the time.
Notice we said thirdly and not finally. Because there’s so much more to say. But for that you need to journey to The Dear Green Place aka Glasgow. If you’re already going, we’ll see you there. If not, there is still time to bag a ticket. Especially when you consider leadership is also about staying up to date, with fresh thinking. And when the leaders in the room are identifying themselves, you’re one of them putting your best foot forward.