Suzanne Wood takes a different look at leadership and what makes some leaders stand out from the crowd.
I love the term āRemarkableā; it was brought to my attention four years ago when I first joined Go MAD Thinking. Itās from a book by Seth Godin, called āPurple Cowā. Imagine this, if you looked out of your window and saw a purple cow, what would you say? I would expect that you, like most of us would exclaim āWow thatās amazing, remarkableā or words to that effect. You would certainly remember it wouldnāt you?
Now, take that into the realms of leadership. I would imagine that you will remember the leaders who have stood out, done something a bit different, made a real impact on you or changed the way you behaved.
So, what made them āRemarkableā?
Below are five key things that I believe make a remarkable leader. How many do you recognise in yourself and the leaders in your organisation?
1. They have that one extra degree that makes the difference.
At 211 degrees water is hot, at 212 degrees it boils, with boiling water comes steam and steam can power a locomotive! Itās that one extra degree that makes all the difference. This concept comes from an excellent book I read by Mac Anderson, 212Ā° Leadership.
The book highlights how 212 degree leaders make that leap from good to great. They are able to not only rally the troops to committed, purposeful action, but also to create an environment where quality and innovation are the norm, rather than the exception. 212Ā° Leaders have that extra degree of passion that takes their leadership skills from effective to extraordinary or in my world āRemarkableā.
2. They value their team.
The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say āIā. And thatās not because they have trained themselves not to say āIā, they donāt think āIā, they think āweā and they think āteamā. They understand their job is to make the team function. They accept responsibility and donāt sidestep it, but ensure that āweā gets the credit. āThis is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done.ā This quote comes from Peter Drucker, legendary management consultant and author.
Remarkable leaders say they value their team and they act in accordance with their words. They commit to growing and rewarding teamwork. This point links nicely to the one below:
3. They are only as good as their team.
One of the biggest leadership lessons I learnt very early on in my career as a Retail Manager was āYou are only as good as your teamā. I remember my first āRemarkableā leader, Christine, saying to me āSuze, I will only know how good your team are when you are on holiday.ā It took me a while to understand what she meant. When I was 18 and a management trainee in retail I naively thought I had to work a million hours every day, rush around like a mad woman and do everything myself. That made me a great role model didnāt it? How wrong was I!
I now appreciate how wise Christineās words were, and they are words I repeat on every Leadership Thinking programme I deliver. āHow could you develop the people you lead so that when you are not there everything runs like clockworkā? I do love it when after I have said this, some participants say āBut then they wouldnāt need me would they?ā My response tends to be āWell, what could you possibly spend your time doing that would add more value to the organisation?ā Perhaps things like strategy, people development or thinking and planning time?
4. They have clarity of vision and most importantly are able to communicate it in a compelling way.
Remarkable leaders also help you to see how you fit into that vision; they put it into words you understand, so you see how you add value to your organisation.
The best example of this is the story told of an unannounced visit by President of the USA John F. Kennedy to the Space Center at Cape Canaveral in the mid-1960ās. Kennedy toured the complex and met a man in overalls. “What do you do here?” he asked. The man replied, “Iām earning a living.” Kennedy nodded and moved on. He met another man in overalls and asked him the same question. “I clean away all the rubbish,” the man said. Kennedy smiled and strode on until he met another man in overalls sweeping the floor and put the same question again. This time a big smile came across the face of the man who replied, “Mr. President, Iām helping to put a man on the moon.”
The leader of the man sweeping the floor must have been remarkable; he had communicated how the role the man played led to the success and ultimate goal of NASA.
5. They listen and make you feel at ease.
For inspiration for this last point I involved others. I asked my colleague Ken Hudson who, prior to working for Go MAD Thinking was his most memorable and remarkable boss. He talked to me in a most engaging way as he took a trip down memory lane whilst vividly describing Ray, his boss at a carpet manufacturer company in the 1980s.
The things that stood out for Ken was Rayās amazing ability to listen. āHe would hear you out, answer any question you may have, however stupid, without belittling you.ā Ken talked about how approachable he was and how in that day and age these traits were quite rare in leaders.Which I guess is what made him stand out and be Remarkable.
Whilst reflecting on these points, I encourage you to take your own trip down memory lane, as Ken and I have just done. Ask yourself the following 3 questions:
- Who have been the leaders in your past who have inspired you and were āRemarkableā in your eyes?
- What did they do to be āRemarkableā?
- How could you possibly emulate their thinking, skills, knowledge andĀ behaviours?
Thank you for reading my first blog for the new Go MAD Thinking website and I would love any feedback or comments.