Three leadership truths that EVERY business leader must know

I have Sam Gibson (about whom, more in a moment) to thank for the three key points in this blog, and I want to start by asking you a question – especially if you’re in a position of senior management.

What’s your attitude to learning and development? Is it something you used to do while you were on your way up the corporate ladder, but don’t have the time for now? Is it something that senior managers don’t really have to do any more – you’ve learned what you need to know, and it’s something for those further down the organisation, to develop the skills and attributes that you now have? Or are you one of those rare creatures who genuinely continues to learn, challenge themselves and do something different?

Leadership truth # 1: as long as you believe yourself to be on your journey, you continue to learn. As soon as you think you’ve “arrived”… growth, learning and development stop.

Sound familiar? If growth and development stop because you’ve “arrived”, what sets in to take their place? Apathy, arrogance… or something worse?

I’ve worked with some amazing senior leaders who have the humility and self awareness to realise that we’re all on some sort of journey, and no-one ever truly “arrives”. When they reach a particular point, they quickly discover that there’s more to learn over the next horizon.

These are the ones who lead by example, who continue to learn and develop themselves and encourage others to do the same, who gain the admiration and respect of their colleagues and peers, and whose businesses and organisations thrive and grow.

I’ve also worked with some people who appear to think that the plaque on the door of their 6th floor corner office means that they have nothing more to learn.  I can’t help feeling that, not only have they missed the point, they’re missing out.

Have they actually reached the point of omniscience…or ignorance? 

Leadership truth # 2: if you stay too “me-focussed”, you’ll miss the bigger picture.

Hey! What are you looking at?! Yeah you!

I remember my first driving lesson. I was so terrified I drove at about 10 miles an hour, and kept my eyes firmly focussed on the road about a foot in front of the bonnet. I thought that if I looked up at the road in front of me… well, I don’t know WHAT I thought; I was just too scared to take my eyes off that patch of tarmac immediately in front of my car.

Where’s your focus? On the tiny little patch of whatever’s within arm’s reach… or the bigger vista on the horizon?

Perhaps the question is more to the point in a leadership context… where’s your focus? On YOU climbing the greasy corporate ladder, come what may, and getting to that board position / corner office / chauffeur-driven Roller… or on providing an exemplar of leadership that others will want to follow and emulate, that genuinely makes a difference?

And if your focus is on your own navel… what AREN’T you seeing?

Leadership truth # 3: If you have to fight, manoeuvre or politick to get into or maintain a position of leadership, something is seriously wrong.

Surely, one has only to look at the current situation in Libya to recognise the truth in this.

How did you get where you are? Through your abilities, dedication and people management skills…or by lobbying the chairman on the golf course, because it was your turn, or by trampling your peers to get to first place?

People WANT to follow the best leaders, they don’t have to be forced. They respect them; they might not always love their decisions, but they trust them. The worst leaders face the stress of constant fire-fighting to maintain their precarious positions.

Which have you become… and which would you rather be?
So (I hear you ask) who is this Sam Gibson, and wherefore the pearls of wisdom?  A groundbreaking entrepreneur? A personal development guru? An organisational development expert?

Actually no. He’s a preacher and on the senior leadership team of GLO (Gospel Literature Outreach). And the source of these observations? The stories of King David in the Old Testament of the Bible.

Why am I telling you this? Because it’s part of the Yara philosophy of having the humility to learn from everything… including the unexpected.


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