03 Aug 2017


Most managers have devoted thousands of hours to learning and mastering their technical skill (whether it be finance, teaching, playing football or otherwise), but they’ve spent far less time learning how to lead (and often, no time at all). The result is that they can be daunted by this ‘leadership stuff’ and don’t know how to lead, rather than just manage.

Words: Steve Radcliffe

The following five plain and simple ideas are what leaders can take on board to give themselves the very best chance of succeeding:


Understand that leading is not an advanced form of managing. Yes, whatever your job, you’ll need to do some managing, but leading is different. It comes from a deeper place. Managing is about attending to what you have in place and making sure it runs well. Leading is about creating something great in the future. It’s about having high ambitions and helping others have them, too. Managing alone won’t get you to greatness, but leading can. Every day, the world will throw emails, phone calls and meetings at you that will pull you into the managing space and take you away from energising your team and bringing the best out of them. At all times, be conscious of when you’re managing and when you're leading. Most of us spend too little time leading.


To be a great leader, you have to find your magic ingredient. It’s not a job title, personality type or technique… it’s that all of them are ‘up to something’. That is, they are alive with an ambition, a dream, vision or goal that matters to them. There’s something in the future they want and they’re going for it. This gives them an energy and vitality. It has them strive to be the best and get the best from others around them. This is where leadership starts, with you in touch with what you care about and being ‘up to something’. How often are you energised by what you’re up to?


Leading is not just about communicating; it’s about engaging. Once you’re clear on what you’re up to, a large part of leading is about interacting with others so you leave them wanting to build something with you. This is engagement... and it’s different to ‘communicating to’, ‘presenting at’ and ‘telling’. When you engage people, they’ll go the extra mile for you. When you don’t, they may go along with you, but you’re not getting their very best. What do you try to achieve in your interactions? Clear communication or engagement?


Be aware that, as a leader, you’re always having an impact. When you’re in a position of power or influence in an organisation, you constantly have an impact on the people around you, how they feel and what they believe is possible. In our terms you are always either ‘shining your light’ or ‘casting your shadow’.

You won’t always know what your impact is. There is sometimes a huge difference between the impact we want to have on others (our ‘Impact Intended’) and how we actually leave them feeling (our ‘Impact Felt’). The truth is that we can’t always work out our Impact Felt; we can only learn about it by asking others. So how well do you know the impact of your light and your shadow on others? Who have you invited in to give you feedback on your impact? You must know when your shadow is getting in the way of your engaging others and getting the best from them.


And finally, the good news is that there is a way you can become a more effective leader quickly. We now know that growing as a leader is less about implementing complex ideas and more about practice. Indeed, why should it be any different to anything else we aim to master? We learn anything fastest if we have some guidance and a few ideas up front, then put in lots of practice and get regular feedback on how we’re doing.

You can be better at being up to something and going for a future you want, better at engaging others, and better at impacting others so they want to be at their best and deliver for you. Which aspects of leadership are you going to practice?