After reading so many unflattering articles on poor leadership, meagre bosses and bullying behaviour around the office lately, I got the impression the workplace is crowded with bad examples. So, just to contradict these somewhat pessimistic viewpoints I’ve decided to look into some great illustrations of leadership in the workplace.
And this is how this article was born, without much thought, and immediately recognising the people that have influenced me through their behaviour as leaders and the lessons I’ve learnt from them.
Lesson 1. Presence is important
I had just finished university and I was given an opportunity to work in a small-sized organisation (of around 20 staff members). The director there was the first leader of this kind that I came across. He had the habit of, from time to time, walk around the office with what at the beginning seemed senseless wandering. He would go and talk to people about what they were doing, their projects, randomly and without a structure. With time I realised this was part of his management routine, a mean to enquire about the status of ongoing work without seeming controlling, of understanding problems and supporting people by simply being present and listening. His presence mattered because it meant the work of each one counted and was equally important.
Lesson 2. Treat people as equals
A few years ago I had the opportunity to meet and discuss with the founder of a worldwide known hotel chain during an opening event. I was both delighted and surprised by the colourful character in front of me and by the core values on which he had established his empire. When I asked how he had built his success he simply answered: ‘by respecting those who work with me (and not for me…) and treating them as equals. A cleaning lady and myself are working for the same goal so why shouldn’t I give her a hand if needed?’. He then explained that an HR policy formulated around respect allowed him to retain key people for the company, which later translated into a stronger (and yes…wealthier) company.
Lesson 3. People’s welfare is important
& Lesson 4. Easy is not always the best solution
Some time back, I was asked to facilitate a workshop on organisational development. When we touched upon the issue of work planning, it became obvious there was a clear underlying discomfort. Put in an over simplistic manner, some staff members were clearly pressed by a lack of clarity on what was expected from them causing a certain degree of stress, while 2 senior managers denied it. This was when the CEO (until then only a very silent and observative presence) intervened. He said that if staff believed there was a problem then it should be addressed, especially if it had an influence on people’s welfare and performance at work. We spent the next session focusing on solutions for the issue raised. He could have chosen the easy path (denying or ignoring the issue) but he didn’t and by doing so he proved leadership is also about dealing with difficult issues and deeply caring for people in the workplace.
Lesson 5. Motivation matters
When I joined a new company, a few years ago, I had the luck of falling into a team led by an amazing boss. Amazing in many different ways, but the most relevant of them was the way she motivated her fellow workers. She motivated people by providing people genuine (and job-relevant) feedback, clear and timely instructions on the tasks that needed to be done, opportunities to work on different tasks which promoted self-development and an honest thank you at the end of each day. As a result people that worked with her were eager to come to work every day, and worked marvellously as a team. People felt appreciated for their work and that boosted their motivation and satisfaction towards work. These leaders have taught me that humanity and leadership need to go hand by hand and that there is a direct correlation between the long-term success of an organisation and how humanly it is managed.
PS: This is a tribute to all good leaders out there.
If you recognise yourself in the description, this means you are part of the amazing inspirational people out there! These are some of the great leaders I’ve met.
What about you? Care to share your great impressions? Share your examples/ stories of prodigious leadership with us at email@example.com