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May 2012
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Lessons Learned on Leadership

Posted by: Alex Linley

 

Last week I delivered a talk for a Leadership Seminar at the University of Warwick.  I was invited to do so as I graduated from Warwick with my PhD in 2004, and of course, Capp is based on the University of Warwick Science Park, so we are a local business to the university. David Carter, Strategic Director of Warwickshire County Council – and another Warwick graduate – was also a speaker.

 

Our talks were for PhD students drawn from across the different faculties at Warwick, who were interested in developing their leadership capability as they think about their future careers.

 

My objective in my talk was to share some of the lessons I had learned on leadership, drawing from both my academic learning and particularly my experience of being a leader, and developing leaders, at Capp. The 10 points I shared are included below for readers of The Capp Blog.

 

1. Be yourself – positively and with authenticity

You can only lead by being yourself. Build on your strengths, act with authenticity, look to develop the positive in any opportunity.

 

2. Build trust and demonstrate integrity

You will be judged on the extent to which your people can trust you – to keep your word, to take responsibility, but above all, to act with integrity and to protect their interests as far as you reasonably can.

 

3. Inspire through a higher purpose and vision

Share your vision so that people will buy into it with their heart and soul, not just their heads. Emotion, more than reason, drives motivation and commitment.

 

4. Set the values and define the culture

What you do matters much more than what you say. As the leader, you are responsible for the values you hold dear and the culture you create.

 

5. Give strategic clarity with practical actions

Ensure people know what you want them to do and why. Make strategy a series of steps to your desired future state. Show people the role they play, with practical actions they should take.

 

6. Make the right decisions

Above everything, you will be judged by your decisions. You don’t have to get every decision right, but you do have to learn from it when you don’t. Fail early, fail fast, recover quickly.

 

7. Encourage diversity (especially of perspective)

Groupthink can kill an organisation’s ability to adapt in a rapidly evolving world. Encourage and celebrate diversity in gender, age, ethnicity, experience, expertise – and above all – perspective, to ensure you have all bases covered.

 

8. Wedge open doors for emerging talent

You should always be looking to raise the “mean level of intelligence” of the organisation. Recruit people who are better than you are. The organisation – and you – will be better for it.

 

9. It’s not all about me – create complementary teams

Nobody is good at everything, and no leader can do everything the organisation requires. Create complementary teams to leverage and harness the strengths of the leadership team as a whole.

 

10. It can be lonely at the top

Leadership is lonely. Tough decisions rest on your shoulders alone, often in the quiet hours of the middle of the night. Be prepared to stand tall and firm, but alone. Have support outside of the politics and personalities of your organisation.

 

Would you argue the case for anything different that I have not included in my 10 leadership lessons above? Let us know by posting your Comments on The Capp Blog.

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