The Art Of Leadership

As leaders and people managers, we have to be excellent at finding, hiring, developing and retaining top talent. Simultaneously, we have to have great strategic thinking, organizational design, manage operational issuesm perceptions and complex matrices of relationships. It’s an often thankless, unenviable task that makes us question why we tried so hard to get there in the first place.

The reality of a leadership role is that it takes a delicate balance of your personality, leadership and management in order to succeed. It is most definitely an art and not a science. Your talent with leadership is most definitely comparable with creating great music or a beautiful painting. The reality of getting there is the same journey too.

I recall learning to play the piano as a child, it was hard work and the only thing that kept me going was that I enjoyed it. Music and art are a mixture of talent, knowledge and applied skills that come together in one place – the same is true in leadership.

Traditional management tasks such as interviewing or performance management need to be balanced with the empowerment of employees to own projects with full accountability, manage complex relationships and support their own development.

The final part is your personality, it is your charisma that makes you a great leader, your ability to articulate a strategy through vision and inspire others is what helps to drive people to follow you. The same way that when I play the piano some of the sound comes from pressing the keys and pedals, some from what I want it to sound like and some comes from my own personality/talent.

For many years, I have used the approach developed by (the late, great) Stephen Covey within the book 7 Habits of highly effective people. Although it was published in 1989 it’s still just as relevant to being a successful leader.

Personally, I find it helps guide the balance of leadership and management activity. I draw a cross in my notebook, write a list of what I have to do as I think of it and then use the grid to prioritise urgent or important tasks. I can then review these to ensure that I don’t have too many management tasks in the important or urgent boxes.

The sweet spot in the paradigm is where things are Important and not urgent, as this is where one can make the best progress, and its where you need to try and make your leadership live.

This balancing act is getting more important as future employees’ needs are predicted to be completely replacing most traditional leadership and HR approaches.

There has been a lot written about this subject over the last few years, with significant research that has been completed by Bersin, CEB and Harvard Business. The research tells you a few interesting things about how the leadership need is evolving.

1.) Employees are becoming more and more empowered with the demand for talent and knowledge in the marketplace, together with challenges in the talent acquisition space (because there are now so many applicants per role).

As well as knowledge of HR being instantly accessible to all, this makes a high performing employee incredibly valuable.

2.) As technology evolves new ways of working, leaders must do the same and at the same pace.

3.) There is still a gap in understanding the difference between Management and Leadership.

4.) The HR community needs to grow quickly to keep up with the change, and a heavy investment in leadership development will see organizations become successful.

5.) As there are more millennial people as both employees and managers, there is an increasing need to cater for new ways of working and cultures that blend with this.

Simon Muskett is Head of Learning and Development for Ericsson Middle East and Africa Region. Simon started his career as a successful sales person and since then has built a wealth of Learning and Development experience, having worked in leadership positions for some fantastic brands including HSBC, British Telecom and Dell before he joined Ericsson.