What makes a good leader?

by Marianne Page

How you show up as a leader then depends on how you answer this question: ‘Is management power or is it responsibility?’

I watched a lovely conversation the other day between Captain Tom Moore, and the former England football captain, David Beckham. Naturally they talked mostly about the phenomenal fundraising exploits sparked by the promise of a £1 donation to the NHS if Tom walked a length of his garden. £40 million later… !

What really grabbed my attention was when the conversation turned to leadership, and Captain Tom shared his thoughts on captaincy and what it takes to be a good leader. ‘I think you have to rather like people’ he said, ‘[You have] to realise there is good in everyone and as a leader you can bring it out of them.’

So true, and yet how many managers share those beliefs?

I had a ‘conversation’ myself with a guy on LinkedIn some time ago, who was telling anyone who would listen that ‘we all need to accept that employees are all lazy — they’ll do the minimum possible to get by; that they are stupid — they can’t even follow the most basic of instructions and need to be micro-managed to within an inch of their lives; and that they are devious — they’re out to get you, to undermine you, to sabotage your work’. He argued that if we all accepted that, we’d have much better lives because we’d walk into being a manager with our eyes wide open.

What a depressing viewpoint! I pity him, and anyone unfortunate to work for him.

Naturally, I have a very different point of view! I share the view of Captain Tom, that people are full of potential. They are smart and caring and fun. That if you show you care about them as a person, that they will try hard for you; that if you believe in them and show them that you do, that they will start to believe in themselves, and you’ll be amazed by what you get back.

Of course there are exceptions to this. Of course there are individuals who are just not right for you and your team — but they will be right somewhere else. Everybody has potential.

Captain Tom is right, to be a good people manager your baseline has to be that you like people. How you show up as a leader then depends on how you answer this question: ‘Is management power or is it responsibility?’

There are plenty of managers new and old who see their position as one of power, but of course it’s all about responsibility.

As a manager you are responsible for getting the very best out of the individuals you’ve been asked to lead and manage; to help them fulfil their potential. How you take on that responsibility is going to determine how well respected you are; whether you are able to build a high performing team and how much you achieve together. Will you be a ‘Go’ or a ‘Let’s Go’ manager; a lead from the front manager or a micro-manager with a big stick?

What you believe matters. What you do matters even more — leadership is action, not position.

Marianne’s latest book is Mission: To Manage: Because managing people doesn’t need to be mission impossible, out from Practical Inspiration Publishing on 23 July (Kindle edition just 99p/99c until launch).

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