Leadership lessons from everyday leaders

There’s a lot published and available from the titans of industry and the world’s leading business coaches on leadership. But how do regular people do it?

This is something that has interested me for quite a while, particularly when I get to see differences in leadership styles around the world and the hybrids that evolve as a result of globalisation. This post is inspired by my nomadic travels and in particular, a recent trip to China, watching how local leaders exert their influence without always having to wait for hierarchical intervention.

Picture the scene – a group of people huddled around the table, proposing sophisticated technical solutions that would prevent their employees by-passing already implemented systems. They call in the production supervisor for his opinion, ready to sell him on the concept. On a brief explanation of the situation, he calls in his fellow supervisors, explains the situation to them and asks for their immediate feedback. His proposal is get the employees to do what they were meant to. The by-pass is just laziness and instead of ending it there, commits himself & fellow supervisors (with their complete agreement) to work together with their teams and address the issue directly. Ownership. The technical team is relieved. Their proposal would have cost and taken time to implement, not to mention train the employees.

Sound familiar? This could be anywhere in the world, a highly advanced or simple production facility. But would the call to take ownership happen without prodding & prompting? Are good leaders born or developed through experience?

First some universal truths – some lessons are the same no matter where you are; it’s the execution that can vary quite significantly. Some lessons I picked up along the way,

1. You don’t need a title

The best form of leadership in action is often peer-to-peer engagement. A real leader doesn’t wait for someone else to endorse them in order to make a decision or to take charge. The best leaders take charge when there is a need without being asked.

2. Take ownership

Don’t make excuses. If people in your area of responsibility are not doing what they should be, own it and fix it. Don’t spend energy on making excuses or designing workarounds.

3. Keep it simple

Occam’s razor definitely applies here (the simplest way is often the best). Don’t over-engineer solutions, particularly when it comes to people. Work with them, don’t design around them…people have a habit of finding loopholes when you do.

Have you encountered any interesting insights on your travels or in working in diverse teams? Any inspiring leadership stories you’d like to share?

Photocredit: Jaisheila Rajput (pictures from my travels)