What is Leadership?

  • 25 Nov 2021
  • By Helen Phillips
  • Read in 5 Minutes

Tags: business growth, Leadership

What is Leadership?

Tony Robbins defines leadership as “The ability to inspire a team to achieve a certain goal” But what does that mean in practice? Helen Phillips' LinkedIn posts on this subject reached more than 18,000 views - here's what she had to say

What is Leadership?

Like it or not, as a business owner, when you start to employ people, you need to start showing leadership.

Telling people what to do, and how to do it might cover the basics – that’s management.

But being on the receiving end of that is not very appealing is it?

For your business to thrive, for you to attract and retain good people, and for you to be able to relax, knowing that your business is in safe hands, you need to display leadership.

Tony Robbins defines leadership as “The ability to inspire a team to achieve a certain goal”

Management is focused on the task, whereas leadership is focused on the people.

Leadership is about the personal qualities you display that will inspire others, and bring a team together to achieve a common goal.

Leadership means:

  • Creating an inspiring vision of the future
  • Motivating people and serving your team
  • Standing up for what you believe in, being prepared to take risks
  • Managing the delivery of that vision and looking for ways to improve on it

Creating the Vision

What is the secret to create an inspiring vision that others will follow?

This is the essence of leadership – if you don’t know where you are going, how can you expect others to follow you?

As a business owner, it can be incredibly easy to get caught up in busy-ness, without being very effective.

Stephen Covey, in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, says we should begin with the end in mind.

It means to know where you’re going, so that you better understand where you are now, and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.

Go back to why you started your business – what do you really love about it? What impact do you want it to have on the wider community?

Your vision needs to be bright, bold, and believable.

People will buy into your values and the emotions behind them – so share them!

They like a stretch target – a sense of importance in their community.

For it to be believable, think in terms of a short to medium term horizon – say 3-5 years.

Make sure the outcome is something that you can control.

Answer the questions What, Why, How, Who, Where and When.

Craft it into a clear and concise statement that is easy to remember, and easy to explain.

Motivating the Team

What is the most common mistake business owners make when motivating their team?

As a business owner, one of your basic roles is to motivate your team to achieve the goals of your business.

When I work with business owners, I see two common mistakes:

1. “I’m motivated by achievement, and making the world a better place, but they are motivated by money.”

2. “I’ve always wanted to be the boss, so if I offer them a promotion, they will work harder.”

One of our favourite books is “Drive – The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” by Daniel Pink.

Based on research at MIT, it argues that if the work involves cognitive skills, decision making or creativity, once you pay them a fair wage for the job, offering more money doesn’t work.

The motivation to perform at your best comes from within:

Autonomy – the ability to direct their own work

Mastery – the urge to get better skills

Purpose – the desire to do something that has meaning

To motivate your team, you need to ask them questions, get to know what is important to them.

Leadership is about serving your team – listening with empathy, and creating the perfect environment for them to achieve their very best.

Stand Up for What you Believe In

What do the most inspiring leaders have in common?

Names like Martin Luther King come to mind – someone who had a vision, and was prepared to stand up for what he believed in, at great cost to himself.

This is the essence of leadership – the ability to stand up for what you believe in, take risks, and make decisions

You have to know what you believe in.

It’s important to get it right – you will have to make sacrifices to achieve your purpose and live by your values.

You have to lead by example – every thing you do, every decision you make, has to be true to those values and that purpose.

You have to be prepared to make decisions and live with them.

When the going gets tough, your team are going to look to you and see how you handle it

When you get it wrong, you need to recognise that quickly, admit your mistake, accept responsibility, and put it right.

One of the best leaders I worked with accepted total responsibility for his team – if things went well he singled out the person who had contributed the most, and if things went wrong he would always take full responsibility.

This aspect of leadership is probably the most challenging to live up to.

Do you think it is innate or is it something you can learn?

Delivering the Vision

Delivery is where leadership and management combine.

A manager will put a team together, select people for the right skills and diversity of experience.

A leader will build a team:

  • ensure everyone knows the part they will play in delivering that vision
  • facilitate communication within the team
  • build trust and mutual respect
  • look for ways to help them grow personally and professionally

A manager will set targets and milestones, and monitor progress

A leader will celebrate every win

They will identify pitfalls and hurdles to overcome, and encourage the team to identify their Plan B.

When things don’t go according to plan, they will investigate the root cause without allocating blame.

They will constantly encourage the team to look for ways to improve the process

They will develop emotional intelligence to deliver feedback honestly and objectively, based on behaviours and data rather than attitudes and opinions.

The team is where the magic happens – have you been part of a great team?

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