Leading Edge – August Edition 2017: An excerpt from ‘Leadership Matters’ by Elaine Jobson, CEO of Jetts Group

The Institute proudly presents its first leadership book!

With the vast majority of today’s thinking around the topic of leadership focused on the inspiration perspective, today’s managers know they want to be good leaders, but are poorly equipped with how to be good leaders.

Leadership Matters: 7 skills of very successful leaders is the first publication from the Institute of Managers and Leaders. The book is the guide to leadership success missing from our bookshelves that is shaped by leadership in practice rather than a theory of leadership – the “perspiration” rather than “inspiration”.

The following excerpt comes from ‘Leading People’, a chapter guest-authored by successful Queensland businesswoman Elaine Jobson, CEO of Jetts Group, an iconic Australian fitness brand. With more than 25 years’ leadership experience, Elaine reflects on the key leadership lessons of her career that have ultimately shaped her into the successful and inspirational leaders she is today.

 


 

LEADERSHIP LESSON 1 | Leadership’s power to influence

It was John Maxwell who said, ‘Leadership is influence, nothing more – nothing less.’ So, what does it mean when he says leadership is influence? It relates back to John Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadership model (see Figure 3.1), which explains the different levels of leadership accomplishment.

Position leadership sits at the bottom, at level 1. Position leaders could be new to leadership or perhaps reluctant leaders, forced to do the job by the default of having people reporting to them. At the other end of the spectrum is a Personhood leader, someone who has the self-actualisation of leadership, who people follow because of who they are and what they represent.

Figure 3.1 – John Maxwell’s 5 levels of leadership

A good example of the difference between these two different levels of leadership is Princess Diana and the Royal Family. By position alone, the Royal Family should have the more powerful leadership due to their status in society. However, Princess Diana, although just a kindergarten teacher who married a prince, became a more influential leader of the people due to who she was and what she represented. Princess Diana achieved level 5 leadership of Personhood through years of demonstrating kindness and generosity. A Position leader has the heads of people they lead whereas a Personhood leader also has their hearts.

 

My Position 1 Leadership experience

I had a boss early on in my career who was a level 1 Position leader. He was a harsh Scottish man, highly driven and by far the most disciplined person I have ever met. He had high performance expectations, and you had to be an achiever to survive. He wasn’t outwardly friendly and had no regard for personal conversation.

He used his leadership position to drive the team hard, to the extent that it was a common occurrence to witness people being gibbering wrecks at their desks. He would expect a lot from the team and would accept no excuses for poor performance. People were stressed and would break down, then he would ridicule their weakness in front of the rest of the team.

You had to be tough and never complain, you were not allowed to even mutter an excuse or he would scream at you or, worse, throw something at you. He became so synonymous with this behaviour that he even created a symbol for it – if you survived his extreme leadership for a year or so he would present you with a coffee cup. Emblazoned on the cup were the words ‘I can cope’. This trophy was held in high regard within the office. People felt honoured when he awarded them with this rare prize.

It was amazing how people became entranced by him and his controlling ways, they killed themselves trying to please him. He valued performers and would outwardly play favourites with anyone in the team who was delivering the best results. He lavished them with gifts and praise, usually in front of other colleagues, much to the high performers’ embarrassment.

This boss was intense and difficult but he managed to get people to achieve very high levels of performance. In fact, we were one of the fastest-growing companies in the UK, and within a few short years we were able to float the company on the stock market (the Alternative Investment Market). He became one of the richest young entrepreneurs in the country.

The story doesn’t end here. Even though on the surface the company looked successful, this leader eventually lost it all. The decline started with the team losing their ability to work together due to the competitive culture at the company. Infighting began to break out and jealousy ensued as some people scaled up the ranks ahead of others who felt they deserved it more. The team also lost any capability to be creative due to the amount of pressure they were under. They relied on the boss to make all the major decisions and lacked confidence in their own judgement. The managers were simply puppets with the box pulling all the strings.

Even though results were achieved in the short term, in the long term success was unsustainable. People started to leave the company in droves and the boss’ bad reputation stretched far and wide, which meant no one wanted to work for him. The company started to unravel. Within a few short years it came close to bankruptcy and was eventually sold to a competitor before it collapsed into liquidation.

Never abuse the position of power that comes with leadership. Teams can’t function long term under pressure and creativity is killed with a team is stressed and micromanaged.

When I look back now I can’t believe we put up with this leader’s outrageous behaviour, but the truth is he taught me a lot.

Being a leader of people is a great responsibility. Through your position alone your words carry more power. Respect that power and use it wisely. Learn the craft of effective communication and always choose your words carefully for they can have a far-reaching impact on the people around you.

This leader bullied his team. He relied on his position to obtain compliance from the people he led. Above all I learnt from him that kindness and empathy are two of the most important traits a leader must have. Kindness is not weakness; it is a strength. It takes great leadership to hold your people to account and to do this is a kind and empathetic way.

Even in tough leadership situation like letting a team member go, you must always be kind and show empathy as the rest of your team is always watching how you deal with these situations. Your leadership is defined in these moments.

 


 

Leadership Matters: 7 skills of very successful leaders will be available at all major bookstores, as an eBook on Amazon and iBooks, and on the Institute’s website from the 7th of August. To find out more, click here.

To pre-order a copy of the book at the special IML Member price of $25 (excluding postage), please email your contact details to membership@managersandleaders.com.au

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