In the days when Health and Safety allowed kids to race about unsupervised, climb and jump, we played a game called ’follow the leader’. One person was selected as the leader, the rest follow and copied their actions. Some were brilliant leaders; they challenged us to push our limits, encouraging us to try something new, different and daring.
I was always an enthusiastic follower until the occasion that one particular leader leapt from the canal bridge to the tow path below, slipped and fell into the cold, mucky water.
There were lessons learned from the leadership game which are just as useful today:
- You don’t need to know where you are going, just what you want to achieve. Just because we have always been this way doesn’t mean it is the only route. A new way can be great fun.
- Lead by example: It isn’t an intellectual activity. You have to show your commitment. When people trust and follow you, can they look you in the eye, and see that you are emotionally committed to the cause.
- Engage people. Look for ways to let them participate, join in, and influence the journey.
- Be aware of emotions. If you recognise somebody’s emotional state then you can choose the most effective ways of motivating them. How many times have we found leaders expecting their teams to change before historical baggage has been cleared.
- Praise success. Quick wins and small victories as a team or from individuals encourages everybody to work hard towards the goal.
- Challenge to motivate. You never know what can be achieved unless you try something different.
- Support innovators; these are the people who will find the new ways, those routes that others may require encouragement to try but which might take you to new heights.
- Encourage a sense of urgency to do something now rather than letting the moment pass. Momentum is difficult to initiate but once you are on the move it is easier to maintain.
- Be prepared to swim. The adventure sometimes takes unexpected turns.