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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Positive Leadership: The Importance of the Softer Side of Leadership

Never underestimate the softer side of leadership.

By the time you become a senior leader, you have already mastered the technical skills. What may be missing, however, are the nuances and the seemingly simple truths that get lost in the noise around how to run an organisation. These are the softer skills, which may look simple, but are deceptively so.

There is nothing simple about empowering people so that the decisions they make and the actions they take are aligned with the overall values and strategy of the organisation. It is not easy to remember the importance of rewarding your team continuously with praise and acknowledgement of milestones achieved, especially while you’re steering an organisation to an endpoint over the horizon.

Leading is less about analytics and decisions, and much more about aligning, motivating, and empowering others to make those decisions. These truths are part of essential elements of leadership. Although strategic and practical, they are inspiring and motivational, as the entire organisation becomes aligned behind a greater purpose and a grander mission that is bigger than any one individual.

To be a leader is to make others believe; in challenging times to convey that “everything will be okay,” and that together the team will find a way forward. As a leader, you must have confidence in your own ability, but most important in your team. Leadership is humbling, knowing that it is never about you, as the leader. Leadership is all about what others achieve.

No matter how many times a footballer practices a shot, what counts most is his performance with the team. So too it is with leadership. Leaders seek feedback on what can be improved, make the change, and measure the outcome. Leaders review some performance indicators on a daily basis and others weekly. However, the best measure of all is talking to and observing customers and employees. Through the tone, cadence, and content of the feedback you receive, you can glean what no computer screen or spread-sheet can reveal; you can gauge the subtleties of whether the organisation is engaged and aligned to the purpose, vision, and strategy, as well as where the opportunities and challenges can be found.

The softer side of leadership is vital to results because if unheeded, it will become a leader’s blind spot. 

Being a leader, being a CEO, is not just a position; it is a privilege and a responsibility. 

The lessons learned from the leadership journey are numerous. Leaders are not simply messengers of corporate strategy. The leader’s job is to be the message—not only in words, but in demeanour, mannerisms, decisions, and actions.

It is the nuances of leadership that make the difference—the soft side, which just may be the hardest part of all.


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