By Steve Raw. Helping you on your leadership journey

Leadership from the perspective of a young professional

Nick EvansMy name is Nick Evans, I am a graduate on the Charityworks programme as part of the 2014/2015 cohort. The idea of the programme is to mould the future leaders of the third sector through structured learning and development.

Leadership remains a vague concept, it has no hard and fast rules and a good leader wears many hats. Most people are familiar with Goleman’s concept of ‘emotional intelligence’ and its 5 defining factors but these are so broad and all-encompassing, they are hard to grasp when you are as inexperienced as a young professional. Therefore I am sharing some tropes of excellent leadership I have experienced in my brief career.

Be your own support act: The purpose of a support act at a gig is to warm the crowd up and get them wanting more. The best leaders I’ve worked under have started every work-related encounter warming their team up, whether that’s having a laugh and a joke or reporting on last week’s outstanding performance, they make sure their team is engaged before moving onto the agenda. Time may be pressing but if don’t take that extra 5 minutes to fire your team up at the 9am meeting, they’ll come away sluggish and demotivated.

There’s no such thing as ‘your best’: Goleman claimed that leaders are driven to achieve for achievement’s sake. The best leaders pass this trait onto their team. The best leader I’ve ever worked under would offer the most enthusiastic congratulations on a job well done with one hand while offering a bigger, more daunting challenge with the other. Good leaders will shape teams who are driven achieve and will never stop challenging them to do so.

A good leader wears many hats: I am happy to step outside my comfort zone, colleagues may not be. My colleagues may enjoy role-playing situations; I personally find it stilted and awkward. A good leader will be able to identify what every member of their team responds to and adjust their style accordingly. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach for managing people and the best leaders I’ve worked with have always had multiple ways of dealing with multiple people.

No ‘umming’ and ‘arring’: Both literally and figuratively. Nobody ever got anybody fired up by using filler words such as ‘like’ and ‘y’know?’ and good leaders think long and hard before they speak which rarely leaves them saying ‘ummm’. By extension, good leaders do not hither and thither, they make decisions and stick to them, even if you know that internally they’re in utter conflict. Nothing instils trust like seeing someone make a tough decision and not second-guess themselves.

Keep the faith: As a good leader instils trust, so too will they trust their team. A good leader is aware that a team is a reflection of themselves and should have the self-confidence that they’ve given their team all the resources they need and the faith that their team will do the best job that can possibly be done. This means stepping away from micro-managing, delegating tasks and allowing teams to work remotely. Trust goes both ways and managers have to make that investment in their teams.

Those are 5 (fairly) succinct examples of what good leaders have demonstrated to me and what I hope to one day embody.

Of course, nobody is perfect and sometimes your manager may not be giving you exactly what you need from them. Naturally you should pay some credence to seniority but you absolutely have to let your manager know if they need to work on some aspect of their role. This refers back to my point about teams being a reflection of their leaders; your manager is not just responsible for your development, you are responsible for theirs!

Nick is a graduate on the Charityworks 2014/2015 programme. You can also follow Nick on Twitter: @iamthenicktator 

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2 Responses »

  1. “Naturally you should pay some credence to seniority but you absolutely have to let your manager know if they need to work on some aspect of their role” – how would you go about this? I think it’s a really difficult thing to do and every time I have suggested that I’m not getting what I need from my boss, they get very defensive and nothing seems to change.

    • Hi Hannah, thanks for your question. It sounds like it may be time for you to have a ‘courageous conversation’, courageous conversations are exactly what the name implies, they hinge on you taking the reins and laying down both how you feel and what you need to change for you to be a happier and more productive colleague.
      I’m going to direct you to a blog post about courageous conversations because it explains them far more articulately and succinctly than I ever could. Denise Poole talking about Courageous Conversations, pay particular attention to DESCCO,

      Remember, you have to be objective in courageous conversations, you have to explain how you feel but that is only as a response to what your manager has said or done. On that note, when explaining what your manager has said and done, recall exact times, dates and quotes, your manager will go on the defensive if they think they’re being misquoted. By contrast, it will be impossible for them to argue if what you’re saying is factually accurate.
      All in all, courageous conversations rely on you doing your preparation properly and keeping your nerve throughout, do this and you can’t go wrong.
      I really hope this helps, let us know how it goes!
      Nick
      Nicholas Evans

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