I open this article with the words from one of David's former team members in their nomination - "David provides an ear and support to his team, acknowledging we are all learning everyday. As leaders, and those being lead." In a world where there is pressure to pretend we have all the answers, I love this acknowledgment that we are all learning everyday. While I was speaking with David it was only a matter of minutes before I could sense the complete devotion David has to both self-improvement and the empowerment of those in his team - all without an ounce of ego.
Who is the best boss you've had and why?
I immediately go to John Gilbert. He came as a new CEO to a previous organisation I worked at. I found him to be the most inspiring, empowering, brave, authentic person I've worked for and I owe him a lot in my own understanding of what a leader is and in the opportunities he gave me to be the best that I could be.
John came with a change agenda and initially thought I might have been someone that needed to be a part of that change, but we tested each other and found a different form of relationship. We respected each other before we worked out what it was that we respected in each other. We came to the conclusion that we were very different people but that difference was a good thing and that difference made us better together.
For John to empower me, to trust me and stake his own reputation on what I was about to do - took bravery from him. Empowering is about letting go and that what's he did. He still challenges me and pushes me beyond my comfort zone - to be better than I thought I could be and he gave me the confidence to be better than I was.
What are your three tips for being a better leader?
1. Remember to be human - you're working with human beings so you have to show your weaknesses. You have to celebrate your passion, your drive and your own enthusiasm for things; and you even have to show your fear for things.
2. If the object for a leader is getting the best out of people, you have to remember you are one of those people too. You have to get the best out of yourself and if you're not doing that first then it's hard to expect that you'd be capable of doing that for others. This is not just a work thing, I see it as getting that best out of myself as being a husband, a father, and my health. Only then can I expect to walk into work on a Monday morning and expect to get the best out of the team.
3. Use your emotion - being someone who creates energy is a precondition for being a leader and you can only do that through emotional commitment to something that you believe in. Emotion can show up as passion in a speech as to why this is the right thing to do, or fear about what could go wrong, empathy for the impacts that happen and understanding the consequences and fallout for others. All those emotional responses are really important for creating the right consistent, positive energy for a task or goal. So don't be afraid of your emotions - in fact use them as a tool!
What conventional corporate wisdom no longer applies in today's workplace?
I don't like the term 'performance management', they are two good words but there should be a bunch of stuff wedged in between the two of them. I prefer different words to sit by 'performance' - inspirational, empowerment, enablement rather than management. Management for me does not conjure a sense of high performance, it's a term that sat well in old days of knowledge hierarchies with command and control. It's not 'the now' and it's certainly not the future.
For me, the old term 'are you on the bus or off the bus' is a marker for failed leadership. If I ever hear that, I instantly feel we've got something wrong. It's a veiled threat that masks a leader who has exhausted all their tools without getting buy-in from the team. It is used by leaders trying to reinforce their own position.
Workplaces are changing, I predict...
The idea and definition of who's in your team is going to change, less and less will it be limited to the concept of an FTE. It will be dynamic and could be customers, board members, contractors, suppliers, vendors and your job as a leader is to galvanize all of these.
The modern labour market is so fluid and so capable, the corporate entity can't control it and people can, with comfort and confidence, elect 'in' or elect 'out' for themselves. Leaders will need an ability to form a team quickly, galvanize them, complete a goal and exit them properly so you can come together on a future occasion.
Employment brand will be less about a corporate concept and more about leadership concept. People will become attached to leaders and their leadership style, they will seek to work with them because of this style and not because of the organisational brand. Leadership will become much more than transnational and the impact you have, in many cases, will be also be a relationship with families - their husband, or wife and if their children are proud of the place their father or mother are working at.
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