Whenever I start with a new client (I’m an interim digital and technology leader) I often begin thinking about three things: reflecting what kind of impression I need to make, what I need to be doing to show leadership, and what I need to do to role model the behaviours and ambition I want the team to see from me.
The first two often depend on the activity I’m required to do – for example, sometimes I need to work in a certain way to deliver a complex outcome – this could require a very structured and process orientated approach to ensure a delivery event happens. Sometimes there is a leadership vacuum that needs to be filled – and it’s my responsibility to fill it with significant authority. Each client will have a different requirement and approach, and I flex it to depending on the situation to enable me to deliver the required outcome. They can be done without role-modelling good leadership – it’s just a task.
However, I believe that is only part of my role and what my clients are really looking for – regardless of what is required of me to deliver. I always want to leave a client with a legacy, not just around delivery, but one of ownership and ambition.
A Role Model Legacy
For me the only way to leave this kind of legacy is to role model the leadership behaviours required – because without seeing me “walking the talk” I can never expect anyone else to. I also believe that leadership takes place at every level in an organisation, and so does role modelling.
I want the people who work with to say they miss me when I’m gone, not because I’m nice and kind, not because I got things done either – but because I role modelled how things could and should be done and they liked working with someone like that.
I’m not perfect – I make mistakes (how long have you got?) – and that is where I believe role modelling begins. Owning our imperfections, our mistakes, and our journey. Role modelling also ends with similar theme – with authenticity of who are and being genuine we are with our passion, our care for others, and our delivering our commitment.
Two decades ago I never really understood how to manage my commitments – I would always over promise and underdeliver – I got better, much better and follow throw and execution.
Less than a decade ago I wasn’t authentic at work – I didn’t have the congruence that enables me to be genuine, show passion, and care for others – mainly because I wasn’t doing it for myself. It’s far easier when everything is lined up that you can fire one arrow through all the hoops and hit the bullseye.
One of the things I say to everyone in the digital and technology function when I join a new organisation is that we need to show leadership. All to often ‘IT’ is seen as just a service function – nothing could be further than the truth in 2021. Unless the technology function is front and centre in an organisation then one of two things is happening:
- the business is not prioritising digital and technology in it’s future success, and in some case its very own survival in the coming years
- someone else in the business is leading the technology agenda in the business – this is harmful to all other areas of the business as it’s often bias to one area or business unit
Showing leadership in technology (or any things else – and it could be anything e.g. sales, finance, a product or service) is critical. People need to understand you not only want the ownership of the problem, but helps you on the way to building the trust that you are capable of doing it. Sharing the vision for what could be and how to get there – and that these issues are your to deal with (and not there).
Behaving in this way (and it’s not an overnight fix) help resolve the two issues I described above. Filling in the vacuum the business has around what digital and technology can do for them, or replacing the business from the spaces that they have occupied. To put it another way – people are either swimming in your lane, or the lane is empty and nobody cares that it is.
The final part of this is follow though. It’s hard to deliver outcome a three year plan in a few weeks. But what you can do is show commitment to getting it achieved. So following up with actions is critical – “walking the talk”. Or my favourite – ANT – Actions Not Talk.
What’s The Kindest Thing?
Many years ago a friend gave me some advice – I was angry and I wanted to lash out at the person I had a difficult relationship with. I was so pleased I asked for this advice, they simply said “What’s the kindest things you can do Rebecca?”. There was a pause. “And then do that.”. It became some much clearer on what I needed to do. When you focus on what is kindest things for the other person it becomes easier. This can be simply giving more time to listen to someone’s needs in a personal or work capacity – or more complex situation where you know there is a longer term issue that hasn’t been address – leaving the problem to carry on will just cause further issues and resentment.
Remember, sometimes the kindest things is also the toughest things to do.
Be kind. Deal with it today (or at least talk about).
Don’t Sit On The Fence
One of the most annoying things for teams is when you don’t have an opinion. One of the office taboos I often break is talking about politics. I have a very clear set of values and views I follow and I shouldn’t be a afraid to share them – it’s about being authentic. Sometimes people disagree (I wish people did more). Disagreement is not conflict – it takes two people for conflict. Challenge strongly and follow the data. Don’t be walk away from challenge.
Decision making is all part of leadership. If you want a team or an organisation to move from the current position to another one – they need direction – and this only comes from a decision being made. Otherwise it’s like a piece of driftwood in the ocean – aimlessly going nowhere – maybe one day lucky enough to be washed up on the beach a few years later.
The only wrong decision is indecisions – so make some and share them.
Staying positive is hard. We all have those days when we go home and crash. When sleep is the only answer to the day we’ve just had. Those days when things haven’t gone to plan. Of course the challenge is reduce those day down as much as can (and we can) with planning and execution, communication and collaboration.
Been seen to be positive is one of the most inspirational things a leader can do. Smile. Be happy. Have energy and excitement. It’s infectious. But also follow the mood of the organisation when you need to. Don’t be smiling and skipping about on a day of mass redundancies – but talk about a positive future, realistic aims and what you’re doing about to make things better.
People want to have fun. Be showing we are just human is essential to let people see the real you, the authentic you. When we are open, other will too.
The Ten Things
If I can distil the ten things I try and role model it would be these:
- Learn from your mistakes – be responsible for imperfections
- Confidence in your domain – it’s yours so lead it set the visions and own it
- Carry through on commitments – always (and don’t if you can’t explain why)
- Be kind – what is the right thing to do for the person (or people)
- Do the difficult things – sometimes the kindest things are also the difficult things
- Have and share opinions – it shows character and strength of conviction
- Make decisions – the only wrong decisions is indecision
- Have fun with people – you’re a leader, it doesn’t mean your not human
- Keep positive – set the mood for everyone (there is always a better tomorrow)
- Being authentic in who you – open, honest, proud
Leadership isn’t something we’re born with it’s something we grown into – and we can all be leaders no matter where we are in an organisation (or family unit). So role modelling the right behaviours for others to copy is important.
And if you are lucky enough to be looking after people in your current role; remember leadership is a privilege, not a right.