What is leadership?
We believe leaders are made not born. Leadership can take many different forms which depend on how it relates to you as a person, and your organisation as a whole. At Roffey Park, we are interested in how individual people have the power to contribute and drive the entire organisation.
Leadership can relate to leading a small group or an entire organisation. Many examples of great leadership come from military or political stories where one person has risen above the ranks and history has described the way they successfully steered an organisation or even an entire nation through a period of adversity to a great outcome.
As such, historical leaders can be idealised and placed on a pedestal. In reality, every leader has good and bad days, has good and bad character traits and doesn’t get it right every time. Look at Winston Churchill or Steve Jobs. As with so much of organisational development and aspiration to be better, we tend to hold onto simplified analogies and singular successes in an attempt to bottle the ultimate leadership elixir and apply it liberally hoping we’ll become like the people we admire.
That is why Olympians end up on the leadership public speaking circuit. Whilst such people are often inspiring for having stuck at a thing until they became the winners, it’s not necessarily a great advert for leadership. Because leadership implies followership. To be a great leader, people have to want to follow you. They have to buy into your ethos, your character, your words, your direction of travel, your tactics, your utter determination that your way is the right way. They have to trust and believe in you, and they have to want to go where you’re going.
Leadership can also refer to a whole organisation. Organisational leadership is very much about positioning an organisation as leader within its field, industry or geographical region.
But again, it might not be simply a case of having the largest turnover or biggest profit figure if you’re planning on being the leader for a long time. You might be the biggest media company in Manchester, or most profitable tech company in the world, but just as with individual leaders, if your organisation doesn’t inspire followership, in the form of loyal consumers who buy into your brand and ethos, it will be difficult in the long run to keep that top position.
At Roffey Park we work tirelessly to connect the two elements of leadership. To really see you as the individual you are, and understand what will make you the very best leader you can be.
Leadership versus Management
In any role of responsibility, there is a good chance you’ll be called on to manage as well as lead.
We see management as being about the decision making processes to manage your resources in the most efficient way to achieve your organisational objectives. This involves the planning, prioritising and checking that the right work is being achieved. The typical way of improving your management skills will be through developing processes and organisational design.
In contrast, leadership centres around how you can build a shared vision for the organisation. This has everything to do with the engagement and motivation of others to follow the organisational route, as opposed to their own. The typical way of improving your leadership skills may be through influencing and persuading skills, communication and engagement skills and emotional intelligence. At the organisational level, we might talk about organisational development (OD), which speaks as much to the people as to the structure of the organisation.
You will naturally have your own leadership style. This lies at the intersection of the role you play within your organisation, the groups of people you’re working with, and your own character as a human being, built up of all your experiences.
Your leadership style will never be static, and others will build a picture of you sometimes from first impressions, but often over a long time or even in hindsight (long after you’ve left!). In many ways, the only thing that matters is how your leadership style is perceived by others. On our programmes, we like to tease out what the rest of the group sees of you, rather than only focussing on what you believe your own leadership style to be. The results are always of interest, and often pretty eye-opening.
At Roffey Park, we believe that everyone can lead and everyone can get better at it. You might find these following leadership styles already apply to you, or that they’re ways of doing things you think might work for you as a person, and the culture and mood of your organisation. Try them on for size and let us know what you think!
Compassionate leadership is about being a compassionate person and caring for other people within the organisation whilst also encouraging and leading the organisation to do the same. Whilst this can often be seen as quite ‘fluffy’ and not relevant to business performance, we recently saw how Gareth Southgate’s compassionate leadership of the England football squad applied elements of compassionate leadership to great effect, Southgate’s leadership style being heralded as driving team spirit and confidence.
In many ways, compassionate leadership is at the forefront of current thinking on organisational development, and chimes well with the societal need for people’s feelings to be heard and views appreciated.
An organisation’s clientbase can also be sensitive to the fair and compassionate treatment of employees and overseas suppliers and vote with their feet. The democratising power of the internet and social media also means that ratings websites now regularly comment on and expose the less compassionate organisations for all to see, as cases like Sports Direct bear witness.
It doesn’t mean that all companies are doing it, or doing it right. Often within one single organisation, you’ll see the whole range of opinions being voiced, as is the case with the likes of Amazon where some see their leaders as being highly compassionate and nurturing, whilst others feel they are exploited, and even their basic needs not met, like needing to pee in bottles for fear of missing performance criteria.
There is also a difference between compassionate leadership and generally more ethical leadership. In a survey of 10 of the worst companies to work for in the UK it was notable how many employees cited exploitative and stressful working conditions but where there was a “nice and friendly working atmosphere.”
In its simplest form, strategic leadership is simply a way to describe leadership which is successful in moving the organisation (or the bit of it you’re responsible for) closer to the stated strategic objectives.
In other words, it is the sum total of all the actions you might take as a leader to engage with people, get them to see your perspective and align beautifully to it. However, the measurement of your success are those of overall business strategy you’ve signed up to. The benefit of considering the need for strategic leadership is that it makes certain you won’t get too bogged down along the way.
For example, if you wish to nurture more collaboration or more compassion at work, the measure of your success will not be the feedback score everyone gives you for how cared-for they feel, but rather the measure of success will remain, for example, the profitability of your business unit or the increase in sales you were targeted with achieving.
Whilst there are many claims on what is the optimum toolkit for a successful strategic leadership approach (e.g. The 10 Principles of Strategic Leadership), we tend to see strategic leadership as something which is highly personal, which tunes into your leadership style, the organisation and people you are dealing with, and the strategic objectives you’re trying to reach.
Every day, each individual working within a team has the unique opportunity to make a choice when they get to the office door: to play the role of an employee or to act as a leader.
Distributed leadership is not just about engaging employees across the organisation, facilitating the best possible result or creating more empowerment among them. This type of leadership model requires you to see leadership activities as being part of a collective process.
The notion of distributed leadership is based in the activity theory and in the concept of distributed cognition, or shared thinking, where leading is not something to be held in an individual mindset, but rather in the interactions between people, routines, and things. Tesco is one organisation which seems to exemplify distributed leadership and particularly the rich and relaxed communication between its people.
Over time, decreasing levels of coordination are required to grow independence, autonomy and good relationships.
In order to accomplish this, every member of the team should practise the following: expand their own experience (what they are seeing and doing); take more responsibility for themselves (feel and be in charge); communicate clearly and share their needs, feelings and thoughts; and finally, have a more appreciative mindset about work, shifting the focus into what is needed instead of concentrating on what is missing.
Being true to yourself at work is not as easy as it may seem. Thousands of professionals struggle with the experience of not being able to express their thoughts and liberate their natural self, their beliefs or even their background in the workplace. Therefore, they find themselves experiencing the stressful feeling of constantly switching roles and altering their identity as they move from home to work and from one context to another.
Authentic leaders are genuine and operate with a high integrity. They lead with the heart and quickly help others overcome barriers. Their level of self-awareness shapes an inclusive culture, inspires employee engagement and open interaction. They permanently explore their own judgements and views in order to identify what values operate in themselves and how they can focus on serving others. Consequently, the whole organization is built around authenticity and a culture of trust is shaped.
Walking through the office door as an authentic leader means being positive and not afraid to show emotions, limitations or innovative perspectives. This approach enables leaders to empower teams and enhance their vision towards a common goal. Authenticity can be easily cultivated.
People and contexts are continuously changing. Great leaders know this and to get the best results, they know which leadership hat to wear in every specific moment. Situational leadership means adjusting your style to the development level of your followers in order to influence them and better fit with them. Leading a group of recently graduated young professionals who are making their initial experiences in the corporate world will require a different level of communication and organizational skills compared to a group of highly experienced and talented professionals. Their expectations towards you and the company as well as their level of engagement may be dramatically different.
Adopting a situational leadership style also involves adapting to the different contexts that may surround you in order to get the most of your team. It may be better to embrace a more directive style in a context of an economic or financial crisis, for instance. On the other hand, at times when the company is looking to innovate in certain areas, providing space for professional development, a devolved style in others is preferred.
The situational leadership style is not a single style. It means having the ability to embrace all the different leadership styles available. While this gives you great flexibility, it also implies having a clear and rational knowledge of every other style in order to apply the one that better suits that particular group or situation.
Transactional leaders believe in supervision, organization and performance, promoting compliance through rewards and sanctions and through a clear and definitive chain of command. Sometimes, the best moves for a leader are those that minimize the risk and maximize the benefits within the current context by delivering a clear message to their followers and ensuring that the goals set are achieved.
This directive and action-oriented leadership style is usually applied in crisis and emergency situations and implies a mutual exchange of benefits between leaders and followers. It is also aimed to maintain the status quo and to maximize the benefits of the current context in which the company or institution exists. That is why it is not recommended at the early stages of a business or when looking to innovate into new markets or exploring new ideas.
A transactional style might be a good fit as well to lead an inexperienced group of people in need of clear instructions towards a specific goal. However, it will definitely limit the potential of each individual’s capacity to innovate as the leader’s role is mainly focused on ensuring that his followers achieve the goals that he has set for them. In this sense, transactional leadership can look a lot like management – where it’s more about following the process and checking outcomes.
Leaders inevitably struggle with pressure: conflict management, lack of support, expected high performance, and the list goes on. These issues are not new, but in this fast-paced world, everything is measured and results are expected faster than ever. Consequently, tension can backfire and harm resilience.
What if you could develop your ability to get comfortable with stressful situations and become a more present and efficient leader under pressure? By exploring new patterns, embodied leadership moves from the mind into the body, and from reactivity into holistic action. This innovative leadership style helps you expand your perspective and enables you to lead with presence.
Unlike other leadership styles, embodied leadership does not solely focus on self-awareness, as this is considered only the starting point towards a solid and aligned course of action.
This approach to leadership development is also based on neuroscience, as it considers that models and theories do not impact the regions of the brain required for behavioural change. Adopting an embodied leadership style means gaining a deeper insight into oneself and through the development of new motor skills, being able to provide a more substantial response.
Global organisations require a global mindset with a local skillset. In order to be successful, global leaders must become competent in cross-cultural awareness and practice. And as a global leader, communication becomes crucial.
Adopting a global leadership style enables you as a professional to lead effectively across a variety of cultures and continents. At the macro level, it’s about understanding business, political and cultural environments worldwide. At the micro level, you will be called to learn new perspectives, tasks, trends and technologies that influence local people across the globe.
In the same way as the situational leadership style, being able to adapt to each local context is crucial. Taking a global strategy to a local scenario is not just a matter of language translation. The brightest idea may fail if some local characteristics of the team are not taken into account, such as differences in problem-solving approaches, communication styles and work-related knowledge.
Finally, a global leader becomes crucial in certain situations such as an environmental crisis in which the organization may have some grade of responsibility. Knowledge of the local scenario, contacts, the ability to communicate and take decisions in a way that benefits both the local community and the interests of the organisation are key.
Collaborative leadership is closely related to clear leadership (see below), and looks at how successful leadership cannot be divorced from the need to get into tangled, complex situations and relationships. It works on the premise that organisations are more successful when leaders foster an environment which places value on people’s willingness to be in partnership with those they interact with at work.
Collaborative leadership doesn’t hide away from deep issues within organisations, and works by having dialogue to remove impediments to real progress. The risk associated with collaborative leadership is that it requires everyone’s voice to be heard, and as a result, collaborative organisations can fail when leaders get too bogged down in the minutiae of human experience and the fact that many people can have separate perspectives and individual subjective viewpoints.
As a knee-jerk reaction, those same collaborative leaders may often resort to more of a command and control approach, which cuts off and shuts down a lot of the discussion and team approaches which lie at the heart of the approach.
Gervaise Bushe, a regular speaker at Roffey Park, developed the Clear Leadership model to address that very issue, and find ways of keeping up the collaboration without losing momentum.
Roffey Park’s forte as a management and leadership development institute is in always seeing the human being behind the role. We are interested in helping people like you to develop a personal leadership skillset which complements you as a leader, your character and context rather than trying to shoe-horn you into some pre-formed leadership box. Being the best leader you can be, rather than being an off-the-shelf generic leadership clone.
You’ll find an abundant supply of articles, courses and strategies on how to develop leadership skills. At Roffey Park, we believe that anyone can become a great leader, and we absolutely believe it helps to look inwardly at who you are and where you have strengths and weaknesses, rather than simply trying to be more like someone else. In other words, seek at best to be a better you, not a whole new person.
Whilst it’s true that there are leadership skills which can be identified by looking at great leaders, it’s important to remember that many great leaders got to great places through a total imbalance of skills. Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs were a brilliant introvert/extrovert team who complemented each other. Steve Jobs would have had nothing noteworthy to lead had it not been for Wozniak being able to shut himself away and build the first Apple Computer. Both were leaders in their own way, but had entirely different skillsets.
Here though, are some of the skills which are often extrapolated from leadership stories.
Leadership Skills – Resilience
There is a lot of talk about resilience in leadership, and in organisations generally. Put simply, it’s the ability to take knocks and setbacks in your stride and to keep going. Schools and colleges are now using resilience ratings with pupils to see how well they tackle issues and find solutions, rather than giving up and walking away from seemingly insurmountable problems.
The world today has its fair share of turmoil and uncertainty, what with Brexit, world trade turmoil, chronic underfunding, and a perpetual need for profit growth. Business leaders who sit between board and business can often feel tremendous pressure from all sides. Add in the media spotlight, and the need for leadership resilience can become greater than anything else.
At Roffey Park, we’ve conducted research around resilience, and you may find the following articles of interest:
You might also like to try our very own Resilience Capability Index to see how much of a resilient leader you are.
Leadership Skills – Coaching
A good leader is a good coach. As we saw earlier, managers will tend to be looking after a process, and make sure that process is working well. As such, the people involved may be of secondary importance. Leadership, in marked contrast, focusses more on the notion of bringing the people along with you, and one way of achieving that is to empower people to make their own decisions and find their own ways of reaching the shared goal.
Coaching uses a range of tools to help people come to their own conclusions and decisions about the route ahead, as well as understanding what they’ll need to do to get there. Rather than telling people what to do, coaching is about encouraging and empowering the people you lead to carve out their own path, and have their own realisations along the way.
In recent years, as this article by Janice McBrown explains, leadership coaching has become much more sophisticated, focussing probably less on setting amazing goals with team members, and much more about facilitating routes to making things happen.
Roffey Park works in both ways here. We can provide coaching services to business and organisational leaders, as well as providing advanced coaching development programmes for practising coaches looking to heighten their existing skill base.
Leadership Skills – Influence
The power to influence others is pivotal in leadership. At Roffey Park, we consider influence to cover “Everything we say or don’t say, do or don’t do, are or are not, that modifies, affects, or changes someone else’s behaviour, thoughts, or actions, consciously or unconsciously, for good or for ill”.
So, if you’re worried about how well you can influence people, you can now see that you already do have the ability to influence others. The question becomes one of how to influence people to get them to do the things you want them to do or want the organisation to do or become. That’s a whole new thing, and requires a sophisticated approach, as you can read in this article, What is influence and what are influencing skills?
The challenge then is to make sure you’re influencing the right people in the right ways at the right times. This might involve any number of others skills you need to deploy, such as active listening, giving great feedback, showing greater self-awareness, being self-confident using your intuition, being agile and flexible.
This art of influencing people is closely related to Personal Effectiveness and Power (this links to one of the most popular ‘influencing people’ programmes we offer at Roffey Park).
Leadership stories are a way of portraying great successes or failures in a way which give us easily accessible, memorable and shareable anecdotes. These usually serve as exemplars of certain leadership approaches, or equally, things to avoid at all costs. You can access TedTalks Leadership Playlists which are full of great leadership stories.
There is no doubt that storytelling brings the emotions into the mix in a way which makes the content memorable, accessible and above all, entertaining. But other people’s leadership stories come with a caveat too, of course.
One person’s way of doing something may not be the way that you would best go about arriving at the same outcome, which is why we spend so much time at Roffey Park finding out who you are, to know how you might be the best leader you can be. Here’s a nice article from Harvard Business Review on how to tell your own leadership story (which we would argue is better than just listening to everyone else’s!).
Much emphasis is placed on the outcomes of great leadership stories – the profit, the turnaround, the international reputation, and not necessarily the skeletons in the closet of how they got there. Even a casual look at the allegations surrounding people like Arcadia Group’s Philip Green or the man behind the international success of the McDonald’s franchise, Ray Kroc suggests that great leadership stories may not always show the full picture.
Check out our blog for our own article on 7 truly inspiring leadership stories
How Roffey Park can support you in your leadership development
Leadership development lies at the heart of what Roffey Park has to offer.
We have explained in this article the importance of leading in an authentic way which is closely linked to your personality. We think that by enhancing what you already have, you’ll take the fastest and most sustainable route through your leadership development.
We apply this approach whether you need leadership development for you personally, or whether you are looking for a custom solution for your department or entire organisation.
Roffey Park’s consultants deliver fully customised programmes to you, your teams and your organisation, both in our own dedicated venues and in house, at your place of work, or other locations of your choice, e.g. as part of off-site conference proceedings.
Our leadership consultants will seek to align Roffey Park’s work to your higher objectives as an organisation, and plan research work before and after to ensure we move you towards reaching those objectives. Once we have identified how we’ll measure success and return on investment, we will develop our leadership development solution in line with your organisational needs and expectations. Our leadership consultants can provide a full range of support and development from off-the-shelf programmes through to highly customised interventions which get to the heart of the issue, and the people in your organisation.
Your Leadership needs
To discuss your leadership requirements in more detail, please contact us by email, or phone on 01293 854042