RB Blog

Insights and ideas from our A-Team


2017  |  20 April

What makes a good leader? I bet you and the person sitting next to you would not agree entirely on this. There are hundreds, if not thousands of models and papers out there defining good leadership, and a lot of the time a good leader in one context isn't one in another. Yet so much is expected of leaders and so often failure is blamed on the leadership. RB Africa deals with leadership in many different forms, and mostly when their organization is undergoing a crisis or a massive change. While essentially the performance of the company or group is the ultimate test in leadership, with which comes a level of alignment and performance drive, there are a few ways in which leaders operate that defines a good one from a bad one – no matter the context.

S1. You take responsibility, even when it's not your fault.
As Shaggy put it, the 'wasn't me' syndrome. As soon as a leader starts to excuse something by placing the blame elsewhere, or worse, ignoring an issue because they think it's someone else's problem, a red flag instantly goes up. Most often, if there is something impacting your team or business, even if it isn't your fault, it is your responsibility. Ascribing blame does nothing to solve the issue. Rather inspire confidence (see point 3) by acknowledging the problem, showing you understand its root cause and impact, and develop a solution. This doesn't mean that you have to fix it yourself, but you do need to manage it.

S2. You manage expectations.
It's so easy when you are standing in front of your employees or clients to make promises. In that moment you want them to be satisfied, to be confident in you and to believe in you. However, that quickly inspires an equal and opposite reaction when you don't deliver. And sometimes things may come up that change the situation. Rather than leave a frustrated, irritated taste in their mouths, manage their expectations. Communicate with them, show them your progress and notify them quickly when things are going wrong or if things will be delayed. You need them to trust you in the future and to do this you must manage their expectations.

S3. You inspire confidence.
When your employees, team or shareholders leave a meeting or update session with you, they leave feeling confident that you have everything under control. You don't sugar coat things; you identify your shortfalls and risks and show that you can manage them. You show that you have listened to their previous concerns and are doing something about them. When you show you are in control, that you are listening, that you are working towards the future &ndsah; then you inspire confidence.

S4. Balance crisis with consistency.
Far too often when times are tough, the first thing out the window is all the 'normal' leadership responsibilities. When there is crisis, meetings are cancelled, communiques don't go out, reports are delayed and everyone's diaries are thrown topsy turvey. This is understandable if this only happens once or twice a year, but when you find that this becomes what you do daily, then you have slipped into crisis paralysis. Yes, these crises may be real, but the vicious cycle kicks in when one slips into another and you start losing control of your normal leadership responsibilities and inevitably this causes further crises. Don't lose sight of your day to day responsibilities; use them to help manage the crises and get back to business.

S5. You manage time; yours as well as others.
There is nothing more irritating than a leader who has no respect for time. Often coupled with the crisis paralysis (point 4), time management not only causes inefficiencies, but also causes frustrations, for you and for anyone that you have to deal with. Be more cognisant of your time. Be realistic with your time. Recognise others' time. A simple starting and ending of meetings on time goes a long way. Find a replacement to chair your meetings if you can't attend. Bad time management reinforces perceptions of lack of control and this does not inspire confidence (point 3).

S6. You listen and then talk.
On an egocentric level, listening before you talk makes people feel that you care what they think and gives you an opportunity to craft the perfect answer. But more importantly, listening actually allows you to come up with the best solution. So often we see leaders who come up with solutions without listening to their employees / teams, and so often these fail. Your people know better than you do what the situation is on the coal face; listen to them.

S7. You take criticism and turn it into your benefit.
So often before leaders blame someone else, they often try to deflect the criticism. Not only does this further eat away at the confidence (again point 3) you inspire, but it also just makes you look out of touch and resistant to change; things that you don't want your client, shareholder or employees to think. Think about criticism like this: finding out from someone else about that something that could improve and benefit you and your business, means that you don't have to waste time, or money, trying to find it out yourself. Use this to your advantage. Recognise the criticism, understand the problem, and find the solution.

S8. You let go.
How many leaders have a few months' worth of leave backed up? They just can't find the time they say and sometimes maybe this is the case. Often however, it points more to a lack of basic leadership skills; developing others, putting systems and processes in place, trusting your team and delegating to them. Empower your team, don't micromanage every aspect. The more you let go, the more ownership there'll be, and the more people will be working towards achieving the same goal. So you can go on holiday once in a while! And make sure that you are not the only one with signing power, passwords, information or the capabilities to make decisions. You are important to the business, but it should never come to a grinding halt when you are not there. Lead as if you will be hit by a bus tomorrow.

S9. You keep everyone up to date.
Leaders are often surprised to hear that people don't know something, responding 'but we dealt with that'. Leaders are so often the go getters, the look aheaders, that sometimes they forget to take people with them. Apply this rule: an action is not closed out until the person who raised it has been given feedback, and you will be amazed at how many items remain open. You are keeping action logs and assigning accountabilities right...? So many leaders learn the hard way. Rather over communicate than under communicate. When people get used to knowing that they will receive information from you, then they begin to trust you more and the less information they will need. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

S10. You reflect.
No matter what we do in life, it is always important to take a step back once in a while and look at where you are. Reflect on yourself, you as a person, as a leader and how fulfilled, happy and successful you are. Reflect on how you engage with your team, whether you work well together. Reflect with your employees on their experience of the workplace and how things could have been done differently. Reflect on your engagement with your client or stakeholders and how you could have avoided a dispute. These pauses, while perhaps momentary, can pull you out of any bad cycle and on the road to success.

William Shakespeare believed that some leaders are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. No matter what your leadership position, at RB Africa we offer coaching and mentoring, training and support at all levels of an organization. For more information, please contact info@rbafrica.co.za.