Have you ever thought of stepping up as a leader in your workplace? Leading a team or an organisation is both a team sport and a human contact sport. Effective leaders depend on a strong leadership team to collaborate and strive towards organisational outcomes. In order to set you up for success, here are 5 tips that we have put together to help you effectively lead in your organisation.

Tip #1: Create a culture of honesty

Myth: I am working with leaders of the organisation who are highly trained and professional, hence their beliefs and opinions should matter the most.

Your team might compromise the top leaders and performers in your organisation, which means they carry with them a vast and diverse range of experiences and and beliefs. As these beliefs brought them to success, they could be protective of their own beliefs and might be resistant to feedback and criticism that appears to counteract them. How then can you create a culture of honesty for constructive feedback?

Pixar adopts a culture of honesty through the Pixar Braintrust meetings. Every director that works on a Pixar movie will go through a Braintrust meeting with his/her fellow directors and scriptwriters. During this meeting, they would review early cuts of the film and offer their honest feedback. The key difference in Pixar’s Braintrust meetings is the way that Pixar frames the session for all participants. The directors and scriptwriters in the room possessed empathy for the work and pride that goes behind film production, and all Braintrust comments are seen as suggestions to help the director and the film succeed. 

Leaders can set guidelines on how feedback and disagreements should be given and received. By setting guidelines, this helps the team to move away from the notion of viewing feedback as a way of expressing discontent, but rather as a way to help one another to succeed. This would be beneficial in motivating the team to move forward with a common goal in mind.

Tip #2: Cast a vision large enough that no one team can do it alone

Myth: Once the organisation vision is cast, these leaders can be expected to step beyond individual team interests and automatically align to the broader vision.

One of the most challenging tasks in leading a team is fostering collaboration across different departments. The constituents tend to expect leaders to champion and defend their respective interests and welfare. Yet, the same people are also expected to champion the interests of the wider organisation, which can often pose a conflict of interest with the other departments.

Take the example of the vaccine rollout across the globe. Every country faces internal pressure to take care of their own citizens through the implementation of vaccination programmes and booster shots. At the same time, we recognise that we cannot succeed in overcoming COVID-19 until every country gets their population vaccinated and keeps the situation under control. In other words, to achieve the vision of a stable endemic future, no country can do it alone in order for us to succeed together.

When attempting to inspire a shared vision within the organisation, leaders need to show the team that no one department can achieve it alone and that their successes are tied to one another. As your leaders and teams set their department goals, connect them to other departments to identify where collaboration can take place for both teams to succeed together!

Tip #3: Communication is key

Myth: Since they are top leaders and top performers with years of experience in this organisation, I’m sure they understood what was being discussed.

Through a visioning and communication exercise that went on for over six months, our workshop participants are required to prepare speeches to convince others that the future state of endemic living is more important than the inconveniences and struggles that we face today. Each group presented a different version of the future on their thoughts about “endemic living”. For some groups, endemic living to them meant going back to pre-Covid times at the workplace and mingling with colleagues in person. For others, they envisioned a hybrid work arrangement. While the participants were excited by the concept of “endemic living”, everyone had a slightly different picture of what “endemic living” was to them.

Similarly in a leadership team, it is crucial that leaders communicate in concrete terms on their expectations and goals. Leaders can intentionally set clear contexts and purpose for all projects, meetings and tasks for others to gain better clarity on the objective of their work. Additionally, leaders should affirm the team’s efforts to help boost morale and motivation.

Tip #4: Give your leaders the space to lead

Myth: To ensure full alignment to the organisational strategy and goals, it is crucial that the leadership team is bound by a strict set of principles and directions.

In another exercise that was conducted in our leadership workshop, participants were required to recall a powerless moment in their lives – specifically a time where they felt useless or unvalued and were unable to manage their circumstances. In every workshop, a couple of leaders would mention that they felt powerless when they were tasked with something important but were not able to exercise much autonomy over their projects. 

When working with a team, leaders must be able to uncover the potential and value of each team member. In order for leadership, ownership and creativity to take place, leaders should model the way by articulating the project’s purpose and expectations while giving their team the autonomy to achieve that outcome. Take a step back, and you will witness the collective wisdom of the team.

Tip #5: Succession Planning Starts Yesterday

Myth: We have plenty of time to do succession planning

In the book Built To Last by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras, they spoke about the difference between Time Tellers and Clock Builders among organisational leaders. Time Tellers are charismatic visionary leaders whose ideas drive the organisation to greatness. In contrast, the Clock Builders build a long-lasting organisation that outlasts any single leader or idea.

The ability of a clock to tell time accurately lies on its consistency and continuity. Similarly, one of the most important jobs of leaders and the entire leadership team is to think about a succession plan as early as possible. Most leaders and their teams wishes to leave the organisation in a better place than before, and the best gift that leaders can leave for their organisations is a smooth succession between leaders.

Collins and Porras suggested leaders and managers to think about questions like “If you were hit by a bus, who could step into your role?”, “What are you doing to help these people develop?”, and “What planning have you done to ensure a smooth and orderly transition when you move up to higher responsibilities (or when you leave)?” While you build strong leadership teams in the workplace, remember to take on the task with the future in mind. Challenge yourself to build a strong leadership team now and for a long time to come.

Building a strong leadership team might be one of the most exhilarating tasks as you witness diverse individuals bringing each of their different talent to the table. Leaders of organisations need to facilitate a culture of honesty, collaboration and clear communication while developing new potential leaders in the organisation to continue the good work that you and your team has done. The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership can also be seen in these five tips. If you would like to dive deeper into what these five practices are and how to use them, register for The Leadership Challenge workshop today!