Mar 10 2020| Leadership
by Phil Eyre Founder
We were delighted to welcome Major General Patrick Marriott to Guernsey last week. He has had an illustrious career in the British Army, including as Commandant of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, where he was also Director General for Leadership in the Army.
I have found Patrick to be far removed from the stereotypical Major General; he is gracious in the extreme, humble, kind and full of fun. I'm grateful for his partnership in our work.
Last Thursday, Patrick gave 35 leaders, drawn from businesses across various sectors in Guernsey, many leadership insights and stories. Here is what we learnt from him:
Of the qualities that good leaders possess, courage, integrity and trust are the most crucial.
Courage includes the ability to overcome fear, remain focused on what is critically important and move forward in the right direction. It includes moral courage, making the right and best choice especially when faced with a dilemma. Courage is not lazy, even when the courageous decision is to do nothing. Neither is courage bravado - leaping recklessly into a situation without thought or preparation. It’s crucial to spend time being clear about your mission, know your values and develop confidence in what’s right ahead of time, before demanding that choices must be made.
Integrity is the most used word in corporate values, yet it is a quality that seemingly remains elusive. It also means many different things to different people.
In essence, integrity is doing the right thing, not necessarily the easiest thing. It is telling the truth, doing the right thing by your people, being consistent, living your values. It includes leadership accountability: holding yourself to at least as high a standard as others, especially when under pressure. It is the ability to draw from what you know to be right ‘deep down’, resisting the instinct to do something that seems easier in the short term. One amber warning signal that we are not acting with integrity is the thought, ‘can I get away with this?’.
Thirdly, trust is essential in a team, otherwise results will flounder. Trust must be continually developed and worked at and requires transparency, openness to other people's ideas, thoughtful planning, genuinely caring for team members and achieving results consistently.
Often these qualities are tested in difficult conditions. Deciding between a good and bad course of action is straightforward. It's about how we act when the choices are all different shades of difficult.
Key takeaway: do we spend enough time clarifying our mission, purpose and values in order to make courageous, high-integrity decisions when required, or are we immersed too much in the immediate tasks that need to be performed, with the result that we are too reactive?
Leaders can, and must, develop their leadership skills. Whilst some natural leadership can be observed, the qualities and practices that make for a great leader can be developed. No leader is above or beyond development, there is no limit to leadership quality or application.
The best development is a mix of both training and education. Make time for education via courses, programmesand reading. Train by creating exercises in day-to-day, on-the-job learning, making time to reflect on practice and improve. In a busy working environment, being determined to take time out for education and training is essential to keep our leadership muscles strong and effective.
Key takeaway: are we investing enough time in our leadership? Or do we expect ourselves and our colleagues to simply ‘just know’ how to lead? Are we intentional about learning from our experiences in our businesses?
Patrick explained that the biggest leadership pitfall, which he described as ‘misleadership’, is the leader’s need for over-control. Leaders who need to control every choice and outcome will suffocate their teams, crush creativity and damage morale. A bullying culture can develop, with team members afraid to raise problems, let alone creative ideas and solutions. Such a culture can be characterised by:
Patrick expounded a better way. Command is best ‘thrown out’ to team members. Leaders, therefore, are responsible for equipping and developing their people, inspiring and pressing them to advance their skills and responsibilities. That takes a less controlling, more vulnerable approach to leadership, whereby the leader is:
Key takeaway: how are we guarding against over-controlling mis-leadership? In our work with leaders and teams, we spend time identifying specific tactics and practices that will help to overcome such a culture. We would be pleased to discuss this with you further.
In a crisis, leaders need to bring calm, stability and then make a decision. This raises team confidence, enabling them to draw on their experience and training, handling the situation. Fear is contagious, but so is courage. Leaders must act in a manner that instils courage and confidence, otherwise fear will paralyse decision making.
Once the decision is made, good leaders keep the team focused, persistent and determined.
Leaders can prepare themselves and their teams for a crisis by practising in ‘peacetime’ - during periods of ‘business as normal’. Shock and surprise can create paralysis; preparing for scenarios in advance is crucial, even if the specific scenario is different, learning to recognise responses to shock and harnessing those responses will help prepare for the crisis.
Key takeaway: do we only ever react, or do we prepare?
We launch the Leaders Advance Programme in May and Patrick is one of our collaborative partners for the programme. Aimed at senior leaders - those with influence on the direction and culture of their organisations - the programme is focused on the human factors that make for healthy, effective leadership and will deal with many of the issues that Patrick highlighted in his talk to us.
Patrick said, ‘I hope to bring three things to the Leaders Advance Programme:
The Leaders Advance Programme is a great opportunity to enhance the quality of your leadership. Spaces are limited. To find out more and reserve your place, click here.