It takes teamwork to make the dream work: my top 5 lessons in leadership
During my 25-year career, I’ve been fortunate to hold a variety of leadership roles and have continued to learn more about this discipline in every one. Here are the top five lessons I’ve learned:
1. We need to understand what motivates our people and provide clarity
Our industry is fast moving and constantly changing. Our client environments in which we work and the technologies we operate are complex, and at the same time, our own business is transforming.
I believe it’s important that we provide our people with clarity, articulate a vision, and encourage those around us to buy into that vision ─ especially during times of change. Providing clarity is about pointing out to our teams where they need to focus their efforts, as well as where they shouldn’t.
Leaders should also appreciate that individuals may have different ideas about what constitutes success – these factors may vary considerably, especially if you’re running a multi-generational, multi-cultural team. We should take time to understand, and reflect on, what inspires and motivates the people in our teams
If our people believe that their ideas and opinions have been considered, they’ll be more inclined to follow and support us.
2. Empower people to explore their potential
A strong leader is someone who’s passionate about empowering his or her people. And by ‘empowerment’ I don’t just mean giving them training opportunities or the chance to learn new skills.
True empowerment happens when our people have the confidence to apply their expertise and ideas to find new ways to solve problems, uncover new opportunities, or improve outcomes ─ things that you’d never have thought of yourself!
I find it immensely rewarding to see our people exploring their capabilities and finding new ways to deliver new value to our clients, even if it wasn’t part of our original plan.
3. Never compromise on courtesy and respect
Strong leadership is also about the simple actions and behaviours – such as courtesy. Of course there’ll be times when there’s immense pressure, plans aren’t falling into place, or someone makes a mistake, but I believe leaders have a responsibility to set an example and treat others with respect at all times.
That’s not to say you should shy away from discussing shortcomings or pointing out where your expectations haven’t been met. But I believe that respect is earned, and unless you treat others with respect, they won’t respect you – they’re more than likely to fear or resent you.
4. Seize opportunities but retain your humility
Rising to a senior leadership position can be attributed to a number of factors; it’s a mixture of building up your capabilities and boldly seizing opportunities – but sometimes it’s simply being lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.
The importance of humility shouldn’t be underestimated. One of my most valuable learning experiences took place early in my career. Young, enthusiastic, and recently-graduated, I accepted a position that required me to be based in Indonesia for three years.
I quickly learned that the Indonesian culture and ways of doing business, conducting meetings, and reaching consensus, were very different to what I was used to in Europe and I realised I needed to adapt my approach. That was a humbling and invaluable experience.
5. Foster a culture of recognition
Dimension Data has a strong culture of recognition, with initiatives such as the CEO Award, the Hall of Fame, and peer-to-peer recognition programmes – however, I think we can always do better.
Our industry and business is so fast-moving that it’s easy to keep focusing forward and taking on the next challenge, instead of taking time to pause and acknowledge our people’s great achievements.
Small gestures such as a personal phone call or taking your team out to dinner at the end of a difficult project, can go a long way to making sure people feel that their contribution – and the personal sacrifices that they made along the way – are appreciated.