What Makes a Great Leader?

With the General Election this week the Party leaders have been under intense scrutiny and every aspect of their Personal Brand has been on view and dissected in various news stories. Whatever their policies it is their Personal Brand that is on show and this, rightly or wrongly, can influence our view of their party. That’s true in organisations too – our first impression of a company can be influenced by the reputation of the CEO or owner, just think about Virgin and Richard Branson.

So what makes a great leader?

This TED talk by Management theorist Simon Sinek suggests it’s someone who makes their employees feel secure, who draws employees into a circle of trust. He says the leader sets the tone and if employees feel that they belong and are part of a community remarkable things can happen. If employees feel safety and trust their energies will be expended on creativity and achievement. On the other hand if they feel insecure they will spend their time on protecting themselves from each other. Trust and safety though are not instructions, they are feelings. You can’t simply give the instruction to “trust me” and your team will, it’s a feeling that builds up over time based on your consistency of doing what you say you will.

Sinek tells the story of a Tech company called Next Jump who’s founder Charlie Sim says “Change the world by changing the workplace culture. This is our audacious goal. Culture is the process which leads to a successful sustainable business.” Their company culture includes not laying off staff who are having problems, instead they coach them. Sim says if your child was having difficulties in school you wouldn’t lay them off you would find ways to help. He believes in Lifetime Employment and this in turn creates the circle of trust and safety that gets the best from his employees.

Sinek explains that Leaders go first, they take a risk before anyone else. When a marine is asked why he faces gunfire and risks his life to carry injured colleagues to safety he simply says “because they would do the same for me.”

So what does make a great leader? Creating a circle of trust, going first, consistency and not asking your team to do something you wouldn’t.

Talk to us about our Leadership Coaching and Personal Branding Workshops to find out how we can help you and your team.

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