6 tips for better leadership from Shaun KennyPosted on February 6th, 2019 in Event News, Industry Insight, Leadership, Speaker Interview
No matter the size of your team or what you’re trying to achieve, the results you see will often be the direct result of how well those in charge are doing. A poor leader will often get disappointing results from a skilled team, while a good leader can encourage a weaker team to perform well.
The difference between a good leader and a great leader, however, is even bigger. We spoke to Shaun Kenny, Director at People of Influence, a company that helps leaders from around the world become more influential in the workplace.
What makes a great leader?
The difference between a good leader and a great leader often has a snowball effect: minor changes can lead to astronomical differences in terms of results.
Shaun says that the biggest difference is the environment they create at work. A great leader, although rare, is someone who makes sure people are truly inspired to come to work every day and come to work in a place that allows them to do their best work.
Shaun said, “It’s how people feel in your presence not just whether you can execute a plan. It’s that environment of people feeling truly inspired because that’s the only way people show up as their full selves.”
Below are six tips from Shaun about how you can take steps to become a great leader.
Show more empathy
Traditionally, traits such as experience, knowledge and technical expertise have been valued in leadership candidates, but with AI and automation taking the technical aspects of jobs, it’s the human element that is most important. Shaun believes that empathy is the most undervalued trait in a modern leader, and it’s undervalued because it perceived as ‘soft’.
He said, “What people don’t realise is that if you’re going to get the best out of other people, then your ability to know what they’re thinking, feeling and intending to do, your ability motivate to them and your ability to influence them all hinges on empathy.”
Give feedback for progress
It’s critically important for your team to feel a sense of progress and one way to help them with this is by giving feedback, especially on areas where progress isn’t evident. As people are being asked to do more creative work, it’s harder for them to see their progress and if they’re heading in the right direction.
Shaun said, “We’re asking people to do more creative things where the answer, and the path to the answer, is not clear. Let’s say you’re stuffing envelopes, you can see progress because you can count it. With more and more jobs, people don’t know if they’re making progress or if they’re making an impact. In some big companies, people do lots of tasks and projects but they never see the end result. Leaders need to give that ongoing feedback to give people that sense of progress.”
Don’t live in a bubble
Feedback is not a one-way street, but in many businesses it is. Feedback comes from your bosses and those above you in the management chain, but as you get closer to the top there are fewer people who feel confident to give you feedback. Just as your team needs to see the bigger picture, so do you – and that means knowing how the people you’re managing feel about you.
Shaun said, “There’s something I call the Executive Feedback Bubble. What happens is the more and more senior people get in a job or a career, the less and less feedback they get. It becomes a career limiting manoeuvre to give feedback upwards and there’s fewer people above you to give it back to you. Eventually, we get to the point where we think we’re great because we’re not getting feedback and we forget that we’re not getting it because people are scared to give it to you.”
“The irony is if you simply ask people that you want them to make you a better leader by giving feedback, you show so much respect for their opinion. When you open up that line of questioning, it’s incredible what it can do for your relationships, how you’re perceived as a leader and what you can get out of a team.”
Look for inspiration
Inspiring leaders in your orbit give you a reference point and a model to emulate. Shaun has leaders that he looks up to, particularly Microsoft’s Satya Nadella.
He said, “We’ve worked with Microsoft for eight years and I can say with authority that he’s incredible. Not only in being able to define a strategy and turn a company around, but his ability to see a big picture and say ‘look, this is the way the world is changing and this is the way our company needs to change’. He has this incredible instinct and perception in that regard, but his ability to take people on the journey and connect them with a sense of purpose and also to be able to communicate it in such a confident yet humble way, is super impressive.”
Who do you want to be today?
Without a definite plan, leaders work by default. However, by taking a moment to think about how they represent themselves – before they walk into a meeting, pick up a phone or send an email – goes a long way to how well they get their work done.
Shaun said, “Every moment of every day we’re being judged and unfortunately, whether we like it or not, if that’s a bad judgement then our ability to get results is impaired. I think that before we walk into the workplace to begin our day, one of the things we need to think about is ‘how am I going to show up today?’.”
People won’t hear the message if they don’t trust the messenger
All teams, projects and events require a message, but if people don’t trust you as a person then they won’t be able to hear that message. If your team isn’t buying into your vision, then it’s unlikely that you’re going to get the effort or results that you require. Many leaders, however, fail to realise this.
Shaun said, “One of the biggest mistakes is that we focus on the message, but humans will not believe the message unless we believe the messenger. If people don’t believe in you, then the message is not going to land.”