By Pamela Odukoya, Toastmasters International
My early experience of leadership was uninspiring. It was very task-focused and short on empathy. This held me back until I learned more, experienced something different, and began my own leadership journey.
My leadership career has covered seventeen years to date. This includes leading a team of career advisers in both private and public sectors and leading a team of volunteers in a public speaking organization. I view leadership as an opportunity to collaborate with a group of people and motivate them to achieve a common goal. It is not about a position, rank, or title. I adopt the transformational leadership style as my dominant leadership style because it gives me the opportunity to inspire and develop others whilst building productive relationships and using a great deal of creativity.
Image: Jump Story
Whatever their style, every leader needs to be able to use resources efficiently and effectively, be innovative, set goals and motivate their team to achieve the shared vision. Most importantly they need integrity which includes the ability to own your mistakes and to be fair, transparent, and consistent.
Let me share some tips for future leaders, that I hope will inspire you to take action.
Get the most from CPD
Continuous Professional Development (CPD) is one of the things I enjoy most about leadership as it gives me the opportunity to enhance my knowledge and hone my skills. I then draw upon these competencies to motivate my team, review policy and processes, and bring about innovation. It is also an activity that helped me become a leader.
Both formal and informal learning can help aspiring leaders develop. I would recommend these online resources as starting points.
- The Chartered Management Institute
- Future Learn
- Consider reading What Got You here, Won’t get You There, by Marshall Goldsmith. It provides some insight into the leadership behaviours that you might need to adopt.
To get some experience in leadership at the senior level, I would suggest you consider applying for a trustee role in a charitable organization. As a trustee, you will be part of a board and you will have legal responsibility for the management and administration of the charitable organization. Some resources to help you explore the role of a trustee are:
Or you can try to take on a leadership role in a volunteering organization or professional association.
Understand your team
Leaders inspire people to work towards and achieve goals. Developing productive working relations is an absolute must for leaders. Time invested in understanding the personalities, values, and aspirations of team members by listening and engaging with them is well spent.
I recognize that my team members have their unique beliefs, values, and aspirations. Therefore, I seek to gain an understanding of these aspects through formal and informal meetings and listen actively to their story. Though this process can be time-consuming, the benefits are immense. It helps me to gain my teams’ trust and create a safe working environment that can subsequently impact their performance and productivity. In addition, it also helps me to be alert to their situation and identify signs of demotivation early.
Help others to grow
My passion for personal growth and development gives me the drive to empower others and support them to realize their full potential. Apart from regularly assessing my team’s training needs, it’s important to find creative ways to motivate and stretch my team. In one of my leadership roles, I created mini projects for team members which gave them the opportunity to work at a different level and influence change. As a result, they developed new capabilities and greater confidence to engage with a wider group of stakeholders.
Show your appreciation for both individual and team effort
Many leadership writers agree on the benefits of showing appreciation, as it has a positive impact on individual and team performance and wellbeing. This is echoed by many theorists such as Frederick Herzberg in his Theory of Motivation and Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Some of the ways I have shown recognition to my team include simply saying “Thank You”, announcements at team meetings, communicating via team correspondence, and of course the power of a chocolate cake on a Friday afternoon. You can also consider tangible forms of recognition such as certificates or awards, as well as monetary gifts.
I have learned that some team members prefer private recognition rather than public recognition. Therefore, I apply the Platinum Rule, which basically says, “Do unto others as they would want to be done to them.” I follow this rule by tailoring how I treat people to respect their preferences.
When showing recognition, it is important that you are fair and consistent otherwise it can be deemed as a form of discrimination, and this can affect the team’s morale.
Another aspect to be mindful of relates to how you recognize your team at external meetings. Do you focus only on the metrics? Do you single out only the top performers? How about that team member who never gets a mention despite working so hard to support the team? Have you spelled everyone’s name correctly? These behaviors can be harmful because they impact the team member’s status within the team. Always aim to build an atmosphere of inclusion and belonging.
What will you do next? How about…
- Starting with a reflection of your current skills and attributes. Some of them might be linked to leadership competencies. For instance, if you enjoy organizing events for your friends and family, think about how you can take your organizational skills to the next level. Sound organizational skills can be linked to leadership competencies such as collaboration and teamwork.
- Reflecting on all the poor leadership styles you have experienced. What do you think these leaders could have done differently?
- Reading autobiographies of great leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Brian Tracy. This would help you to identify great leadership behaviors that you could model.
- Applying for a leadership position in a volunteering organization. This is a safe way to explore all aspects of leadership such as planning, organizing, influencing, and motivating others.
Start your own leadership journey today.
Pamela Odukoya is a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organization that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland.
Members follow a structured educational program to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings, and time management. To find your nearest club, visit Toastmasters International.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog post or content are those of the authors or the interviewees and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer, or company.