I don’t want to blow my own trumpet too loudly but I know I am a great leader.
I also know that no one, and I mean NO ONE would have expected that of me when I was leaving school.
I felt school at 16. It was the early ’80’s and jobs of any sort were in very short supply. Despite getting really good grades in my exams staying on at school or going to college or university simply wasn’t an option.
Like many of us at the time, we came out of school without high aspirations and got a job – any old job.
I kicked about for a while then started a 6 month Youth Opportunity Programme in Local Government. Basically we were paid next to nothing to work and gain experience, but it was better than no job at all.
I was a weird kid at 17, part feisty punk and part terrified shy teen. I had zero confidence in myself or my abilities.
I was a quick learner though and had an ability to work fast. Tasks given to me got done well and quickly. I was also curious, so happily got involved in anything that came my way.
The temporary placement turned into a permanent contract, and a 35 year long career in local government.
I had no aspirations to be a manager and I don’t think the term ‘leadership’ was even in the vocabulary back then. Managers were the big bosses. They were never referred to by their first name, and they were slightly scary.
I was lucky in that my hard work and aptitude was recognised. As a result I was given opportunities to develop and I had one colleague who believed in me. They pushed me to take those opportunities even when I was terrified. And, I was always terrified. Scared of cocking things up, of being found out, of not being good enough.
When I first started ‘leading’ people I had no clue. I was suddenly ‘supervising’ other people and could only use the examples around me to learn what I was expected to do.
I carried with me that memory of the person who had enough confidence in me that they could buoy up my own.
Over the next few years, my ‘team’ grew. I went on many management courses and if I am honest, I still had NO CLUE!
I was taught loads of theory. I learnt lots about all the different management styles. And, of course some of that stuff is really useful.
I mainly learnt though trial and error. I remained curious. I wanted to understand how really successful people did things. What made them different? I was constantly looking at what worked and what didn’t. I was determined to keep developing.
It wasn’t until much later that I realised that leadership is much more effective than trying to manage people.
The most important thing that I have learnt is this.
1. You CAN learn leadership skills.
You will have to give up on some of the beliefs you learnt early on in your career.
You may find yourself at odds with people who are more traditional managers.
You will certainly have to work hard to convince your colleagues that your approach is for real. Especially if they have previously had a very traditional manager.
You will never be able to say you know it all, or allow yourself to stop developing.
But, if you are self aware, like people, and have a passion for constant learning then, of course, you can be a great leader.
In the words of one of my favourite leadership books, ‘It’s not rocket science’.*
The work world has changed beyond all recognition over the last 30 years. A traditional manager, telling people what to do, and treating their team as subservient, seems as old fashioned now as the typewriters that were still in use when I started work!
Leadership skills which recognise that we are ALL human beings are the future.
The most important leadership skill?
Well, in my opinion it is the ability to give someone else confidence in themselves.
I try whenever possible to pass on the gift that was given to me when I was younger.
I will always help others to see that they can do it, whatever it is. I will always share what I have learnt to help give the next person a step up.
If you want to talk to me about whether I can help you to develop your leadership skills I will happily book you a no obligation ‘curiosity call’. Click here https://bit.ly/PPLcuriositycall
*It’s not rocket science. A blueprint for a sustainably successful organisation. By Di Kamp and available from meta-org.com