Changing things to make things better…

…is a pretty good definition of the leadership task. 

In this post I provided the following picture of how leadership and management work together. 

Leadership is about identifying “opportunities to add value” and taking action to move things forward. Which inevitably means… Changing things. To make things better. 

So how do you find the opportunities to add value?

Ask some questions. Ask yourself. Ask your colleagues. Ask your customers*.

(*Customers might be people who actually buy things from you. And they might be the groups of people you serve elsewhere in your organisation.)

Where are your frustrations? What is the stuff that keeps getting in the way? Or the process that just doesn’t quite work right?

Where are your best customers? What are they valuing? What’s the most important thing you do for them and how well are you doing it right now?

Where are your competitors? What’s all the rage right now? Are you in on it? Should you get in on it? Or do something different to set yourself apart?

Somewhere in-amongst the answer to these questions are several things that would add value. 

Pick one. Move it forward. Repeat. 

Gender in Confidence vs Humility

Big thank you to those who have grabbed my FREE eBook – 6 Keys to Leadership.

In the book I talk about 6 key leadership traits and how some of them play off against each other. 

Two of the traits are “confidence” and “humility”. To lead well you need both and you have to balance them against one another so you’re doing both at the same time. I talk about this a lot in the book. Get yourself a copy by clicking here.

Extra special thanks to those who’ve taken the trouble to send me some feedback.

Including this great comment/question on confidence and humility. 

As a leader who happens to be a woman, I frequently encounter advice that women should never suggest that we might not be aware of everything, or use language that suggests humility. Whilst I dislike the stereotyping of leadership traits by gender and know plenty of leaders of both genders who could do with showing more humility, it might be good to show how your philosophy fits with this very prevalent view?

Ask clever people what they think and they’ll throw big issues at you. 

The point being made, I think, is that women are often (annoyingly) seen as “meeker” and “less dominant” than men. As such advice is often given suggesting women remove words like “I just” and “I may have overlooked something” in professional conversation. Or in other words, dial back the humility a bit. Add a little confidence.

I think my answer to this has two parts. One is about your natural “confidence vs humility balance”. The other is about the nature of your environment (and the people in it) in terms of how “confidence vs humility” is viewed and the extent to which “typical gender stereotypes” are ingrained.

I’ve known plenty of women leaders who don’t need to add any confidence. They never say “I just” anything. And I’ve known plenty of men who are WAY too humble in a leadership sense. 

Everyone has a natural confidence vs humility balance. A tendency to lean one way or the other. The stereotype, of course, leading to the advice mentioned above, is that women tend to lean on the humility side. Whether that’s true for you or not, whatever your gender, reflect on this balance a little. What’s your natural tendency? Do you need to shift it a little to have more impact?

And what’s your environment like? In terms of how it handles gender issues AND how it handles confidence vs humility? 

If your workplace is already really gender-aware and sensitive to these things, you’ll need to do less correcting for the biases of your colleagues.

If your office is full of strongly confident people and confidence is necessary to make an impact, and you tend towards humility… consider dialling up the confidence. 

When you’ve figured out your “general state” the trick is noticing when you need to dial up your weaker component a bit and dial back your stronger one.

There’s some advice on that in the eBook.  Do go get a copy. And post a comment here to tell me what you think about gender vs confidence vs humility. 

Task, team, individuals

John Adair. A proper academic thinker and leader on leadership. He proposed a model usually called “action centred leadership” that starts with three things that leaders have to pay attention to.


Following on from my post about People vs Process it is all too easy to focus energy and attention on “achieving the task” and neglect “building the team” and “growing the individuals”.

“Get it done, get it done, you’re really close to the deadline, are you going to make it, we have to meet the target, have you started that other thing yet…” Achieve the task. Achieve the task. Achieve the task.

Build the team….

“Let’s get together for ten minutes and talk about how things are going. I don’t want to discuss the timeline or workflow or deadlines or the project itself. I just want to talk about how we’re working. Are we communicating well enough? Is everyone clear what they’re doing and where we’re up to? Are we getting all the points of view on the table?”

Grow the individuals…

“How are you doing? You look a little stressed. What’s happening? Have you got what you need to get done what you’ve been tasked with? Do you just need a break? How would you like to lead the stakeholder meeting on Thursday? I think you’re ready… I can get someone else to handle that task you’re on now so you can prepare…”

As ever on this blog about leading from wherever you are, this all applies wherever you are in the team.

If you’re not in charge… challenge and encourage everyone (including your boss) to be working in all three circles. Suggest ways for the team to work better. Reach out to individuals and lift them up.

If you’re in charge… challenge and encourage everyone (including yourself) to be working in all three circles!