Top Ten Leadership Tips

Leadership and Management are often confused with overlapping definitions. This is compounded, as most of us need to do both all of the time. For our purposes we define the two accordingly:

 Leadership:              The art of creating (and then maintaining) a successful, unifying theme which resonates so strongly with individuals that they are drawn irresistibly to contribute willingly to the best of their abilities towards the fulfilment of a common purpose.

 Management:          The art of appreciating each employee’s individuality and using this understanding to help them align their own personal motivations with that of the organisation whilst ensuring that every barrier to performance is removed and equally every aid within reason is provided.

Both have the objective of maximising organisational performance; one through a focus on global factors, such as strategy and culture and the other through a focus on the individual.

Please see “Top Ten Management Tips.”

Top Ten Leadership Tips

  1. Does the mission/purpose of your company make employees feel like their work has a meaningful purpose?

 Communicating a clear vision of what your organisation excels at is essential. This could take the form of an ethical purpose that employees can relate to (To rehabilitate the victims of domestic violence, to get long term unemployed back to work etc.) or it could be about achievement or excellence (The largest independent law firm, the fast growing digital media company, the safest airline etc.)

  1. Does each member of staff have a really clear idea of what is expected of them at work?

 Job Descriptions can often be more of a hindrance than a help, focussing on task rather than purpose. This is particularly relevant in the current environment, where economy and technology have combined to increase both our workload and our hours of work with 24-hour contactibility.

  1. Does the organisation have the resources, materials & equipment needed to perform effectively?

 An effective leader will analyse performance and listen to feedback from all stakeholders to ensure that each individual and each team has access to the right tools to do the job. This covers a broad range of both tangible and intangible assets from finance and liquidity, through IT systems, to training and coaching.

  1. Is there a culture of commitment to high performance?

 An organisation must create a culture of high performance. Talented employees will be frustrated by mediocrity and will be drawn to working with other talented, high performing

Individuals. The more talent you have, the more you will get!

  1. Do you have an effective Performance Management System (PMS)?

 The vast majority of larger organisations have an overly complex PMS trying to do too many things at once and driven by quotas and “norms”. Most of these systems have a significantly de-motivational impact! The key to an empowering PMS is to measuring the right things for each team and for each individual. Uniformity can be a grave error in this regard.

  1. Do Employees typically “enjoy” work?

 This is intuitively important, but might be surprise inclusion, in a list such as this, as it is such a difficult area to define. Research by Marcus Buckingham has shown that having a best friend at work is one of the twelve most important factors in defining high performing teams.

Martin Seligman, in his 2011 Book “Flourish” reiterates the need for “Positive Emotion” (fun, laughter and happiness etc.) and Positive Relationships (respect, friendship, trust etc.) as fundamental to well being and thus motivation. It can be a dangerous game to create a “fun” environment at work, but ensuring there is room for employees to enjoy what they do is clearly important.

  1. Do you have an effective set of “Holiday Rules”

 In an ILM survey prior to the downturn, found 40% of Managers were more anxious after a holiday than before it. “Getting up straight” prior to holiday and then catching up afterwards can be exhausting. (How many emails??!) The difference between being rejuvenated and being even more stressed than before is such a significant one, that this is worthy of active leadership.

Make sure that it is clear exactly what gets done in full, (by a named colleague) what gets monitored and what gets left. In order to do this, you must have simple Job Descriptions for each role based on areas of responsibility rather than task. Simple enough in theory, but this is surprisingly difficult in practice. Doing this well, however, will have an immediate and significant impact on wellbeing, absenteeism, retention and most of all, productivity.

  1. Do you have a culture of Fairness and Equality of Opportunity?

 Few people are heavily motivated by fairness, but a perceived lack of fairness is often the single biggest driver of de-motivation. Be careful with promotions, perks and performance management. The clearer you communicate the reasoning behind your decisions and the more honest you are with feedback, the more motivated your staff will be.

  1. Is there a culture of perfectionism in your organisation?

 Some industries require employees to strive for perfection (medical research, legal profession, risk management etc.) but for the vast majority of us perfectionism can be extremely dangerous. Business happens in real time and most of us need to balance the need to do things as well as we possibly can with the need to crack on and do the next thing too.

When we need a motivational speaker, you can bet your shirt an athlete or a sportsperson will be giving the talk. These speeches are invariably fascinating, but the analogy of sport for business is not a good one. We generally cannot afford to focus on shaving hundredths of a second off our time and in any case, no sooner have we done so, than the rules of the game change in business. Find your own standards to aspire to within an organisation and be wary of blanket perfectionism.

  1. Are you measuring and analysing the right things as an organisation?

 Most of us love simplicity and are drawn towards looking at our team or our organisation’s performance on a single sheet of paper. This is great, as long as we are looking at the right things. It is very easy to observe what works well for one high performer and then assume that encouraging others to mimic this behaviour will produce the same results. If you target doubling the number of sales calls made, then the chances are your staff will make twice as many calls. Whether or not they will generate more business over the longer run is less clear.

Invest time in thinking through exactly what the key measures are for your business and measure them religiously. Encourage Managers and Individuals to work out for themselves the best way for them to feed in to these measures.


Executive Coaching will help improve your ability to lead. These days, most top performers in business work with a coach.

If you would like to invest in yourself and the value of your business then call me on 07730 700258 to arrange a free introductory Coaching session