Advice

12 lessons that’ll make you a better leader

13 Jun 2017 By PM Editorial

Dr Wanda Wallace has interviewed 100 business leaders in two years. Here are 12 lessons you can learn from the experts

Just over two years ago, I launched a radio programme, Out of the Comfort Zone, on VoiceAmerica Radio. I’ve interviewed 100 of the world’s top experts on leadership, writers, coaches, CEOs, CFOs and HR heads – as well as many other corporate leaders*.

The interviews have been fascinating. Each week I either learn something, gain a new perspective on an issue or have my experience confirmed.

While each interview is different, I have collated the 12 most important takeaways from the experts. Some are an amalgamation of several experts and leaders. Some I heard repeatedly. All of them will help you become a better leader.

  1. There is healthy balance between being vulnerable and being confident. Saying you do not know something is not a sign of weakness. People who work for you appreciate having an opportunity to tell you what’s blocking their progress and to show you how they do what they do.
  2. People take amazing risks – there is no one way to do it other than to start and keep working at it. You can get comfortable doing things that you are afraid to do if you gradually work your way to the end state. Or, you can jump in head first.
  3. There will never again be enough time. If you accept that statement, then you have to make wise choices on how you spend the time you have.
  4. Anyone can coach with two key questions: what’s on your mind? And what else?
  5. Collaboration, innovation, working through complexity and influence all require including more people and more, not fewer, perspectives; listening more intensely; and much greater adaptation of how you interact with other people.
  6. Rigidity in how you expect people to work with you (as in, there is only one right way) disrupts team performance.
  7. CEOs and C-suite executives want three things from you in communication: what’s the point (quickly, please)? Why are you sure? What do you want from me?
  8. Trust is hugely important to everything, yet we know very little about how to create it in corporate life. We know how to destroy it. We don’t talk enough about how circumstances and context change levels of trust or how to rebuild trust when things go wrong.
  9. Being strategic is about a) knowing how what you do impacts on the ultimate consumer, and b) being smart about where you spend your time.
  10. In transitioning to a new role, three great questions are: what’s my group doing that is working well for you? What’s my group doing that isn’t working well for you? What’s the one thing you would like to see my group do, or do differently?
  11. To get better feedback, ask one question of peers, team and boss: what’s the one thing I could do differently that would make a difference to you?
  12. Work is changing: the interface with machines is coming, our expectations about how and where to work have changed, and the pace of everything is faster. Those who can work under conditions of ambiguity, chaos and complexity – without undue stress – will be the ones who ultimately excel.

* Top experts and executives I have interviewed include Sydney Finkelstein, Joshua Freeman, Judith Glaser, Sheila Heen, Eric McNulty, Henry Mintzberg, Alan South, Richard Shell, Bernie Swain, Ethan Schutz, Tyler Durham, Michael Bungay Stanier, Joe Badaracco, Eric McNulty, Joshua Freedman, Bill Treasurer and John Blakey.

Dr Wanda Wallace is an executive coach and trainer, and CEO and president of Leadership Forum Inc

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