Are great leaders born or created?
Are great leaders born or created?

Are great leaders born or created?

Posted on: 02/10/2017

Alexia Seller, HR Business Partner, Outsource UK writes:

Having been in HR for over 18 years, I have witnessed and seen the personalities of many leaders and how their companies send them on a leadership programme in hope that it equips them with what they need. To many of us, leaders are people that you never really get to speak to, who sit in offices and only appear at organisational events or meetings. They are people who you assume had the correct skills and attributes to get the job done because everything just seemed to tick along.

Great leaders are carefully created with expert help – who knew? 

So, imagine it. I join a company where managers are at one with their team, sit amongst them, who talk to them as equals and are desperate to keep the culture exactly the same but need the help to upskill themselves into leaders. It’s rare you come across someone in business who has leadership qualities naturally; they have to be nurtured.

To me, this was both a challenge and a pleasure. I saw the potential to grow our superb managers into leaders by creating a leadership programme that aligns with our strategy, vision and most importantly our culture.

Earlier in 2017, I set out with the wonderful Tracy Barr of Barr Consulting to develop the Outsource Leadership Programme. Tracy is an accredited executive coach and business psychologist. We started off by determining, with Nick Dettmar (our COO) and Sandie Gale (our CFO) what the key objectives of this programme would be.

What are the differences between managing and leading?

One of the key issues, that I am sure most companies find, is knowing and understanding what the differences are between a manager and leader and if you can have both. Our first workshop explored aspects of management and leadership in the context of Outsource UK’s growth and 2020 strategy. The questions asked were:

  • What does that mean for us as business leaders?
  • How do we find that balance of being an individual performer, manager and leader?
  • Do we spend the right amount of time on the right activities?

The idea was when we knew this, that we took it and created a plan to build on improving efficiency.

The next challenge was to establish if an individual can flex their leadership style for different people and tasks.

Is it possible to change who we are or how we naturally communicate or approach a job?

The answer is yes. Everyone is different and how they respond to what is asked of them will be different too. If we recognise this and learn how to deal with people on an individual basis will ultimately mean happier employees who produce better results in a more efficient way.

Having good and bad days are typical of any person but what do you do when you have employees who finds it hard to motivate themselves to do a particular task?  When you are a manager trying to have someone achieve a specific goal, it is crucial to understand where that person stands and what it will take to get the results you need.

During our training, Tracy introduced us to a tool called the Skill’s Will Matrix. Testing this on ourselves, we were able to identify our skills level and willingness to perform a specific task. Relating it to ourselves, we were able to quickly see where knowledge of a person’s skill and will can help you to create an action plan to help them achieve the desired results.

We all need therapy!

The next step in our leadership journey was an individual coaching session. This session was all about getting as much as you put in. Some described it as a business therapy session, others as a time to bear your soul in order to get the results you wanted. It could be described as a way of unblocking the areas where you were struggling to make progress. I will never really know what went on in those sessions as it was a confidential coaching session between Tracy, and the individual, but I know from what I heard that they were sessions very much appreciated and in which people really benefited from.

The last part of the programme was developing our coaching skills as leaders. The GROW coaching process was introduced and provided a psychological perspective to how we manage everyday tasks and responsibilities. Individuals were asked to coach each other on real issues, so as well as practicing coaching they were also being coached.

As we learnt by Sir John Whitmore’s quote, “coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance; helping them to learn rather than teaching them. Building awareness, responsibility and self-belief is the goal of a coach”.

At the end of this programme, we recognised that all the skills and knowledge of being an exceptional business leader doesn’t come overnight or in a 3 day session. However, there are always quick wins and those that take longer to create and establish.

For me though, it’s about laying the ground work with the people you want by your side in doing it.

It’s about practicing similar methods in order to deliver a consistent approach. It’s taking on board what you have learnt, seeing its value and showing a commitment to your team. They will need to see the change in you in order to learn from it. Whether you are a small or large team, a small office or multiple offices, the principles are the same. It's not just about leading, it's how we lead in order to guarantee that the Outsource values and culture are embedded in everything we do.

We know our people. They are hungry to succeed and be part of the journey that sees Outsource UK continue to grow. They keep their eyes wide open so they know how to achieve that.


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