Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.
– John F. Kennedy
When I look back on my career so far, leading and mentoring teams for the best results has been the most fulfilling among all my experiences. While a lot has been written on what examples leaders can set for their teams, not much focus is there on what leaders can learn from their teams. Leaders and their teams are part of one ecosystem – to succeed and grow, BOTH leaders and their teams need to keep the channels of learning open. This week, I took the opportunity to list down a few of the valuable lessons that I have learnt over the years from my team:
Lesson #1: It is OK to pass on your leadership hat to the team sometimes – There are times when you have to lead from the front, but there are also times when you need to sit back and let your team lead. Not only do you get a break from the “always on” mode, you also get to see a fresh perspective in action. Empowerment benefits the leader the most.
Lesson #2: Sharing Bad news is as important as sharing Good news – As a leader, my first instinct was always to “protect” the team, to not let anything demotivate them. I have learnt now that transparency is extremely critical, you have to trust your teams enough to process all information – good or bad – for them to feel valued and empowered to deal with all situations.
Lesson #3: Learning happens best when experienced and not “taught” – We cannot teach people anything; we can only help them discover it within themselves. A leader has to be patient and wait for the right time to transfer wisdom – and the right time is when the team is ready to learn. You have to allow people to make their own mistakes, it’s tough but it is only then that the lesson is most valuable.
Lesson #4: No matter how big the challenge is, a tightly knit team can overcome it – Everyone has unique skills and strengths that can be leveraged to face difficult situations – much like a herd of buffalos facing lions and hyenas, the strongest circle around the herd protecting the one ones who have not grown strong horns yet – all moving together in the same direction.
Lesson #5: Influence is longer lasting than Authority – Today’s organizations are complex and most often have matrix structures. We can gain credibility and make a larger impact in business, without the positional authority of a job title by persuasion, motivation and engagement. The satisfaction and results that I get through these relationships go on longer than titles and reporting structures generally last.
I have learnt so much from my teams – possibly more than they have learnt from me – I end with a big THANK YOU to all my teams, present and past for being my companions on this journey of growth and discovery.
“No matter what accomplishments you make, somebody helped you.”– Althea Gibson