The Leaders of the next generation
Commitment to people. Curiosity. Courage. Creativity. These are all words that may be associated with leadership. The truth about leadership is it means so many different things to so many different people. As I discussed before about success, everyone has their own definition. Some say Leadership is something you learn whilst others say it is a natural trait. What does it actually mean to be a leader? How do you become a good leader? Do you have to be a leader? Although the word and concept of leadership is often spoke about I don’t believe people know what it actually means, if it even has one definitive meaning. I want to explore this in today’s blog and look at why leadership could be essential to the next generation and look at what has changed in leadership over the decades.
Being a leader is the practice of putting the best interests of others before your own. Daniel Hill
My early experiences of leadership
I have been fortunate in my life to date to experience being a leader as well as being led (both well and poorly). My first exposure to being a leader was one many of you will have experienced, being a sports team captain. In my early teenage years being given this title was a very proud moment for me. Looking back at it now, I really didn’t do anything different to anyone else apart from wear an armband and sometimes not even that. So why did a coach choose to give the responsibility to me? It was only recently that I think I unlocked the answer. Upon finishing the book ‘The 5 levels of leadership’ by John C Maxwell, a book that I would recommend to anyone interested in the arena of leadership, he writes how he was once told by a sports coach that giving captaincy to someone did not make you a leader, it simply gave you the platform to lead.
Being the captain of a team does not make you a leader, it gives you the platform to lead. The rest is up to you. Unknown
Looking back on it now, I am extremely grateful to those coaches, who in my early years gave me that platform. Who knows if I made the most of the opportunity at the time but being where I am now, I can’t help but think the real benefit from getting that experience is only really coming to fruition now – over 10 years later.
My first exposure to being lead by a great leader was my former high school headteacher. When James first took over as headteacher, I didn’t pay much attention, why would I, he was just another headteacher whom I hoped I wouldn’t really see as long as I kept my head down and behaved. However this clearly wasn’t his style and he had different ideas. When he first took over I had just started 6th Form and in the first week I saw him more that I had seen his predecessor in the previous 5 years . Lesson 1 – Be Visible.
Towards the end of year 12, James announced that the applications would soon be open for the student leadership positions of Head Boy and Head Girl in the coming months to take affect in year 13. I had never considered going for this, at the time getting through school was tough enough let alone taking on what I thought was extra workload. However, I was encouraged by a few people so I thought, why not, what have I got to lose?
Long story short, I got it, and along with the Head Girl and 4 other team members we made up the student leadership team – the first in James’ tenure. This was a pivotal moment. Why? Because working with the team and James, I got to see first hand what it meant to be a good leader. One of the biggest things I learnt from James was trust. Not only did I see the amount of trust he had in his own team but the amount of trust he gave to us as a student team. He had clearly identified early on that we were a capable team and the best way for us to learn was to be given a brief on something and being free to run with it. Lesson 2 – Trust others.
Naturally during the year mistakes were made, and that was the point, he wanted us to fail as leaders and learn from those mistakes. There was a different aura about the school and personally it actually helped massively with my studies and my performance, I believe this was as a direct result of having this role. There were many times that we all felt out of our depth and times when I personally, had no idea what I was doing. I was convinced through my previous conditioning that making mistakes was not a good thing and as a result I took less risks. Admitting vulnerability and that I didn’t know what I was doing was something I never wanted to do because I thought it showed weakness. It couldn’t have been further from the case, I was reconditioned to think the complete opposite. Lesson 3 – You don’t have to have all the answers.
What leadership means to me
Over the last few months I have been learning a lot about being a leader and what being a good leader means from people who have tried, failed and succeeded along the way. As part of my ongoing development I meet with my mentor Daniel Hill on a monthly basis as part of the Property Entrepreneur programme. The last few months have been focused on building a dream team and how being a good leader is so important to your business. You may think that being a leader and a manager are different things and to an extent you would be right in thinking that way. However, I don’t think you can have one without the other. They are both important, being a leader could be seen as inspiring others to follow you but to me the pinnacle of leadership is exactly as John Maxwell describes in his model;
Level 4, reproduction, is centred around producing other leaders who go onto become just as good if not better than you. To me that is the most important level and as Maxwell describes in the book, the test of a true leader – to develop those around them to become world class leaders. I feel that the effectiveness of a leader and their leadership is reflective of how they treat and develop their people. I believe that people and leadership are symbiotic, you can’t have one without the other and if both have the genuine interests of the other party at heart an outstanding organisation can be developed.
What makes a ‘good leader’ can often be a subjective question that can have many answers. People who are being led are different and thus will think different things make their leaders great. I think that’s the point, a good leader can identify and adapt their style to whomever they are leading – young, old, experience or novice. For me in my experiences a good leader is someone who knows that the basics of leadership start with listening and having empathy for your people. Simon Sinek states;
Learning to listen is great but leadership is more that that, being a great leader is learning to be the last to speak. Simon Sinek
Understanding the people you lead can sound like an obvious point but that’s just it, people over look how simple it is and how effective it can be in getting the best from people. As someone who has been lead well and been lead poorly, I can safely say that I have much more respect and in turn loyalty, for someone who has taken the time to understand me.A good leader should take time to align whatever objectives and missions you have personally with the bigger picture, buying you into whatever you are being asked to do.
A lack of understating and empathy towards your people, especially young people, leads to that classic comments; ‘Millennials are impossible to manage’, ‘They are so impatient and want everything now’, ‘They don’t understand what real work is’. Whether you are a millennial or have been trying to lead one, I am sure you will have heard some if not all of these statements before. The fact is leaders need to adapt and change, the biggest adaption being empathising towards this group of people and spending time to try and understand them. Coming at it from the angle of ‘I want to get as much as possible from you, so tell me what I can give you’ is all wrong. Instead, try asking yourself ‘how can I help you and how can I make you feel comfortable about who you are so that you can be your best’. This small change will lead to great changes within your team, large or small. and performance will improve drastically. Once you have created this relationship and environment, high performance and loyalty will be in abundance.
Breaking New Ground: The leaders of the next generation
I think leadership and what it means to be a leader has changed drastically from what it once might of meant. I am making it one of my missions in life to be the best leader I can be and this means constantly learning from those before me on what makes a good leader. Jack Ma has famously been quoted supporting the concept of the new way of leadership;
The world needs new leadership, but the new leadership is about working together. Jack Ma
In my opinion collaboration is the key for new leaders, yes competitiveness is important in society but I think collaboration in leadership is what matters most. In my last blog about the UN Global Goals, I spoke about how we need to get together to solve the worlds issues. Leaders will be pivotal in driving change and progress all around the world and more importantly I believe collaborative leaders will be the ones who prevail over the next decade in helping solve our greatest challenges.
The three lessons I learnt very early on about leadership still remain true today:
You don’t have to know all the answers
I have learnt a lot more since then and all of this learning has been through lots of trial and error. I have been fortunate to be in positions where I have been able to make those errors, learn from them and was not punished for them.
There are people that always spring to mind when leadership is mentioned and one of those people is Simon Sinek. I published a short video earlier this week on my socials which condensed some of Simon’s most profound speeches on leadership which I hope you found useful. The video that inspired a lot of this blog and where a few of the clips were taken from is below. He talks specifically about leadership and young people which I think you should find interesting, so check it out and let me know what you think;
There are two attributes that every single leader has the opportunity to possess that will help them create the types of organisations we would be proud to call our own. Those two attributes are EMPATHY & PERSPECTIVE.
Positive vulnerability as a leader means you create an environment in which someone feels safe enough to raise their hands and say I don’t know what I am doing. Simon Sinek
Over the next 5 weeks I will be looking at areas where young leaders and entrepreneurs are creating amazing companies and products which are solving some of the worlds biggest challenges and I will be looking into what these people are doing that makes them so successful – I can’t wait to share this with you, I know I will learn so much myself.
Are you going to commit to improving yourself as a leader? I hope so because the world needs you.
Thank you for reading and until next time, Be More Maverick.
June 14, 2019
July 6, 2019