I was recently invited to be interviewed by an ex-colleague on leadership. As part of their own development they were compiling a view from a person they respected as a leader.
Since we work in different time zones we held an online conversation on a Sunday morning to chew the cud on leadership, careers, families, holidays – you get the idea. To be invited was super flattering and as a result of her training course I have now reconnected with a friend I hadn’t spoken to in a decade.
In the spirit of reconnecting I thought I’d share my answers to her interview questions in a number of posts, so here goes!
Q1: What does leadership mean to you? How do you define leadership?
- Influencing the hearts and minds of your employees (or followers) to believe in a common goal or mission – then provide the environment within which THEY can deliver to meet the mission. Maintaining an eye on the long term, allowing for short term challenges.
Q2: In your opinion, what is the most important attribute of a leader and why?
- Authenticity – undoubtedly!
- Being yourself, showing your true persona, sharing your real thoughts is important, but being self-aware of your strengths and limitations (emotionally and professionally) builds the foundation to authentic leadership. It’s difficult to sustain inauthentic behaviour and maintain healthy relationships with others or to look after yourself, and leadership is largely about relationships. So I think “fake it until you make it” has to be short-term.
- Authentic people tend to communicate well, they tend to open (not hidden) agendas and this is important. Communicating directly, with empathy, recognising the needs of the employees is how you win over their hearts, for the long term.
What do you think? I’d love to hear how you define leadership and what its most important attribute is.
In next weeks post I will talk about skills that I think are important for aspiring leaders.
I gained permission from my ex-colleague in advance of publishing this post.
Sue Schilling is a professional coach and a specialist consultant, she is an experienced financial services operations, operational risk & culture change leader with professional coaching cert. Sue provides business consultancy, learning and development and coaching services to a wide range of organisations.