Saturday, 24 April 2010

Six lessons in leadership

Advice below adapted from an article in the Spring 2010 issue of 'Imperial Matters' entitled 'Six lessons in leadership' based on Imperial College Alumnus Vice Admiral Sir Adrian Johns' experiences of captaincy and command in the Royal Navy.

  • Delegation is all about trusting people to get on with the job that you give them, but it is far more than just giving somebody a job, telling them to crack on with it and not to bother you until it is all finished;
  • Delegators have a huge responsibility in terms of judging the capability and competence of the people that they are giving jobs to, making sure that the right resources are there, that the risks are understood. There is also a great trick in knowing whether, how and when to intervene when things are not going terribly well;
  • There is always the danger of misinterpretation. Part of delegation is taking risk, and there is risk, but also huge benefit, in allowing other people to make mistakes. Not repeatedly, but to make mistakes and to learn from them.

Subordinate development
  • Letting go and letting someone else have a go is key to subordinate development;
  • Bringing youngsters on is not always easy because very often the path of least resistance is to do things yourself. The discipline of standing at the back hoping you don't have to interfere is far, far harder than getting up there and doing it yourself, but we have a real duty and responsibility to train our successors;
  • Add a box on your personal evaluations called 'subordinate development', and judge and mark yourselves on your ability to bring on young people and to train them in succession.

  • The first aspect of loneliness in leadership is that it is something that one really feels in times of crisis, when the sky is falling in around you. You feel, rather wrongly, like you are the only one there, like you are the only one that can make the decision;
  • The second aspect is that the captain sits alone wondering what his 'officers' are doing. It is a part of the loneliness of leadership, both a curse and a privilege, to step back from the bustle and everything that is going on to take stock, to look at things objectively and to think.

  • Amidst changes and, possibly even, the splitting of people into teams and projects, do not allow those in your organisation to lose focus about who they are, why they do what they do, and why it might be slightly different from the way other people do things. Ensure everyone is working together and continues so. This requires a particular aspect of leadership, a very interesting skill requiring different qualities, to ensure you keep your people focused.

  • A great store of humour only serves to aid leadership, and does no harm;
  • A little bit of humour at a time of crisis often lifts the mood and gets you and your team focused on the tasks ahead.

  • Heritage is not about museums and historic 'objects', nor a certain cultural way of doing things, it is about people;
  • Heritage is the sense of not just doing a job in the here and now, but belonging to something that has got a fantastic foundation, and feeling responsible for its future. It is highly important for any organisation or institution.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful masha-allah. Esp:

"do not allow those in your organisation to lose focus about who they are, why they do what they do, and why it might be slightly different from the way other people do things"

I always forget that and assume that people think the same as me!
Couldn't suggest any changes.

adil said...

Thanks Soumaya :) Jk. I made a few changes/additions. Going to give it a slightly Islamicized intro and conclusion iA for my other Blog, and submit it to a couple of local magazines iA.

adil said...

Two more lessons in leadership, from a discussion over lunch earlier today:

(1) Getting people in on 'the vision'. (Helps if they have some say in it and it is built with them.)

(2) Making people feel valued. (Telling them they are doing a good job, their work is important, and so on.)

Anonymous said...

Thought you might appreciate this. Adapted from an email I wrote a long long time ago :-)

I personally feel leadership is all about looking after the people that have been entrusted in your care. There are four ways of "looking after" people and the one you should use depends on their personality.

1. Natural Leaders
Some people just seem to know exactly what has to be done and what to email. These people are extremely rare and have to be treated with gloves. Yes they don’t need training but they still need supervision – a regular call, give them some feedback, take them for lunch to show appreciation maybe and whatever you do, do not overload them just because they can handle it otherwise they’ll suffer from burn-out.

2. Leaders in the making
These are people that have potential but do need training on top of the above. You’ll have to do at least two different events with them because you can’t learn everything in one go, and somehow make them feel they’re in charge while you’re still pulling the strings. It’s very tricky but if you do pull it off you’ll have somebody that is eternally grateful to you and the organisation for giving them this opportunity. Of course you’ll have the odd person who’s not grateful and yes it does hurt, we are humans after all, but don’t be put off.

3. Committee members
Sometimes you give people as much guidance as you can, you try really hard but it doesn’t make any difference; they will never be able to take charge of a project. What’s important is that you do not show any frustration and that they are not put in such situations just because nobody else wants to do it. An organisation needs all kinds of people, with all kinds of skills.

4. People who resent supervision
This should not be a separate category – it can apply to all three of the above but is important enough to be mentioned. To be honest I wouldn’t know how to deal with this kind of person. Teamwork requires communication, and asking and taking advice from other people, from above and below you.

adil said...

Thanks Soumaya. Really well thought-out write-up maa sha Allah. Pleasure to have it on my Blog. Haha, "people who resent supervision" - I find it is usually those who are hard of hearing and egotistical. Yet, ironically, these are the very ones who more often than not jump (blag) their way to leadership positions?!

Thanks again. You're a star :)

Anonymous said...

Will be sure to leave some more of my profound statements in that case :-) Maybe a few calvin and hobbes? Please?

adil said...

Sure. I like Calvin and Hobbes :) Let's see if you can find one on leadership...