The idea is that, whether you like it or not and whether you know it or not, everyone is a leader. You lead someone when you influence them. It doesn’t matter whether you manage a cast of hundreds or are part of a small team.
The interesting question is what kind of leader are you? And the answer to that is very personal. There is no blueprint to being a great leader because it is all about being authentic and true to yourself.
So when I met the amazing mentors I’ve had the privilege of sitting down with I asked them ‘When are you at your best as leader?’ in the hope they could help me answer that question myself.
At the risk of misrepresenting them, here are a few of the answers and ideas I have received so far. They are all phenomenal leaders so there are some great nuggets of wisdom in there!
Andrew Walmsley had some sound advice when he talked to me about celebrating success and making sure he valued the contribution of every person in his team. I think everyone who has been ‘led’ would recognise that as being important.
When I met Sally Cowdry from O2 she said that having fun and doing the stuff she loved was key to her being at her best. This has really resonated with me; it is easy to forget to have fun when there is so much going on day to day – but it makes total sense that getting the best out of yourself involves enjoying yourself!
Cilla Snowball, from AMV.BBDO, had a great mantra around ‘being useful to your followers’; it was really inspiring to hear about how she focuses on helping her team rather than the other way around. She also talked about consistently being yourself so that you can lead by example, which from meeting her I can say she does in bucket loads!
I loved what Katie Vanneck-Smith, from News International, told me about having confidence in your instincts. I think this went really well with another piece of advice I got from her about not being afraid to ask for support when you need it. This combination of trusting your gut but knowing when to ask for and accepting the support of others is a form of leadership I really admire.
Mike Hughes from ISBA shared so much of his leadership wisdom with me. One key point that has really stuck was about leading a team towards a vision. Mike talked about being at his best when he can ‘stand’ his team in that vision. I loved his analogy: ‘standing at the top of the hill looking down is a much easier place to plan your route up’.
I was really inspired by Gail Gallie, from Fallon, when we talked about how you could be at your best by investing in your own wellbeing. The importance of life balance came across from a lot of the mentors I have met. But hearing Gail describe it as seeing yourself as your own greatest resource, and therefore treating yourself in that way, was a fantastic tip!
Paul Brown from The Prince’s Trust believes he is at his best when he is stretching himself, and not staying in his comfort zone. Stretching himself is something he has done lots of in his career. He also left me with one of my favourite tips so far – ‘I’m probably at my best as a leader after my second diet coke’! I love it!