The number one problem I keep seeing that leaders keep making.

Incredibly a percentage of clients I work with don’t see them self as a ‘leader’.

When they think about leadership they think about political, military, large corporate or sport leaders. They might think they are a ‘boss’ or a ‘manager’ but not a leader. This is a mistake. If you are responsible for delivering a result that involves directing or managing others (and include staff, suppliers and customers in this definition) you are technically a leader.

But let’s assume you do accept that you are in a leadership role.

The number one mistake – and I run into this repeatedly – is you are trying to be like someone you think you admire in a leadership role.

Who are your Role Models?
I work with a lot of Managing Directors and General Managers and I can guarantee they will have several management or leadership books in their library (usually which they haven’t read). They will have role models and heroes they aspire to be like. It seems everyone aspires to be like Steve Jobs, Richard Branson or Elon Musk – heavy corporate hitters with well know personnas.

Do what they do
They read reports that try and analyse and dissect what top leaders do and the inference is they need to copy that.

For example, if they have done a management course they have been told there are 12 qualities, strengths or traits of highly effective leaders that they must emulate if they wish to be highly effective, too.

The problem is: it doesn’t work under pressure. How do I know?

Firstly, you’re not Richard Branson or Lord Allan Sugar or Elon Mush (unless you are these people reading my blog, of course). You can’t think or act like Sir Richard because you’re not him You don’t have his life or his experience. You haven’t handled his level of problems. You don’t have his resources.

A mate of mine worked for Jack Welch and Jack could throw 50 MBAs at a business problem. You can sort of, kind of try and be like them, but you aren’t. The problem is you are you.

High-end compliance
I cut my teeth as a coach in high-end life and limb compliance scenarios like medical, aviation, essential services, mining etc. If you get it wrong as a leader at this end of the spectrum a good day is you get a hefty fine. On a bad day someone dies.

Under pressure you don’t have time to zip off to your library and see what Lee or Jack or Richard would do. You don’t have time. Your response has to come naturally – almost intuitively – without too much thought.

If you don’t trust yourself you can and will make costly mistakes. Under those conditions I had to discard a LOT of leadership theory because it doesn’t work well at the coal face. And I had to find out what worked.

So my clients had to find their own style. They needed broad brush guidance that was  robust under pressure. For example, we do a lot on awareness. Essentially, that is what you have two work with.

Anyway, over many years I developed an approach to leadership training that worked really well in high-end circumstances and I then transferred what works well under those conditions to less stringent conditions such as commercial leadership suitable for managing directors that ticks most of the accepted best practice boxes without being prescriptive.

The good news is developing your own natural style of leading is doable and it works really well. You might need some help identifying ‘your approach’ – hence a business leadership coach – but it can be done and my clients are surprised at just how quickly they develop a style of leadership tailored to their industry and circumstances.

If that’s of interest, lets chat.

Andrew Priestley, Business Leadership Coach

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