Leadership in action – a coaching perspective

Leadership in action involves observing, thinking and constant updating to enable the process and pace of the strategic procedure to be realised. True leadership has to involve organising of people’s talent and energies within an ‘unknowable reality’ with special focus on improvisation, innovation and thinking on their feet while taking personal ownership.

Leadership in action

The world of business is about leadership; leading in creative and dynamic, yet simple ways. It is about the realities of the ever unfolding future, the dynamics of change management and the influencing of the team to get to the desired outcomes within given timelines.

The key essentials are those of the HR department becoming more than just a nice to have, but truly adding strategic value to the development and implementation in critical strategic focus areas.

Someone wrote that leaders have to lead by the compass within with animation, successful sense making and staying in motion. Dynamic leadership involves observing, thinking and constant updating to enable the process and pace of the strategic procedure to be realised.

True leadership in action has to involve organising of people’s talent and energies within an ‘unknowable reality’ with special focus on improvisation, innovation and thinking on their feet while taking personal ownership.

Never before has there been such a time when the implementation of strategy has to involve people ‘carrying light and being nimble.’ Chinese philosopher Lau Tzu said, ”In pursuit of knowledge, every day something is acquired in pursuit of wisdom, every day something has to be dropped!”

‘Knowing’ is about finding out and learning as we go along and the process has to strengthen, not weaken the interpersonal relationships within business teams. The fact remains that the leadership has to lead the team to discover, find out, authenticate and challenge their doubts and to use unpredictability as their starting point.

In many coaching sessions with executive teams I have heard some say at this point, “this is scary stuff” and indeed it is, but it steels the team that dare to move ahead in the process. Oscar Wilde once said, ”I’m not young enough to know everything.”

I have observed corporate leaders making the huge mistake of thinking that they know it all and without verifying or even asking others for their perspective on things. By not doing so they have lost an opportunity to really lead because pride and ego demanded that they play to their own experience and expertise only.

Looking back over the years of executive coaching, mentoring and counselling CEOs and executive teams I have to say that I don’t believe that everyone is a leader.

Leadership is not a position or a place. It is rather an identity, a journey of people who have given them permission to be the leader within a given context. Leadership competencies are within everyone, but not everyone is a leader. Also if everyone were a leader, then where are the most needed folks in any organisation – the managers and the workers?

Without managers leaders will be dreaming and visioning, but nothing will be done! Leadership in my mind is observable and learnable sets of practices most people can apply, but there are a few who are exceptional at doing this from a basis of who they are and have become. They have made the journey and have given themselves internal permission to be the leader they believe they were born to be.

The team does not have to wait for its leader to take personal ownership and accountability. Stepping on the plate is what everyone can do if they dare to accept their inner promptings and not care what the rest of the group thinks.

This does not mean that leaders ignore what leading is about. In some exceptional cases I have observed from the coach’s position how excellent leaders have influenced the team and have done interpersonal relationships with finesse and style.

Over 70% of successes in business are interpersonal or soft skills; the rest is IT, business practise and procedures. Leadership in action is the capacity to involve people into a common cause. We cannot do that without personal presence! Trust rules … even on the web so let us learn our lessons fast and well.

The true test of Leadership in action

The true test of leading is in the actions. Great leadership is about doing the extraordinary through people. Their talents, potential and focus have to be utilised and facilitated in simple ways to ensure that outcomes are achieved.

If any business is to thrive, leadership has to be coached and mentored to ensure that ideas and strategies are actioned. Waiting for permission is not one of the characteristics of exceptional leaders.

Stalling progress creates huge amounts of frustration and draws negatively from the emotional reserves of a team. Focusing on small wins seems to be part of the process when I have coached leaders. Exceptional individuals who demonstrate leadership in action get things moving in the expected direction and evaluate the process and progress as they move towards the final objectives.

Watching leaders lead is what I as a coach do. What amazes me is how, once they have given themselves permission to be, they move the team’s focus towards the end result based on knowing who they are and who they are becoming. This self-knowledge is embraced by their understanding of the management of self and how their personal skill set can be applied to the challenges confronting them.

Unfortunately if leaders are internally not well, they tend to infect the team and make others literally sick and stressed which creates poor performance. People respond to what and who leaders are.

One managing director, coached in the art of strategic stories, was a good example of this. We looked at how the strategy could be turned into a movie. We looked at telling the team the story which included the villains, the influence of the unfolding ‘drama,’ understanding the emotions that will act as signals and included the fears, hopes and challenges.

Well, to say the least, it was a smashing success. Suddenly management understood the strategy differently and the connection was simply outstanding. Management’s level of enthusiasm shot up to an all time high and its focus was driven by a deep commitment like never before.

It was as if they have experienced reality for the first time. The normal way of handling strategy by leaders is to use business jargon and hope that everyone will understand.

Based on this reality we have now developed together with a benchmarked process from script writers in Hollywood, a strategic story telling process for CEOs. This one day process which is followed up by a one-on-one coaching process is available CEOs and their executive teams.

The other observations I have regarding leadership in action is how excellent leaders structure conversations with their teams. Unfortunately some leaders think if they have sent an e-mail or had a conference everyone is now in full understanding, only to find out later miscommunication has occurred in the ranks.

Two helpful books I recommend to senior executives include: Critical Conversations and Critical Confrontations. These can empower you to have formalised structured conversations that will increase your leadership in action.

The role of the leader is to constantly check if the team is still aligned to its promises and outcomes. These conversations need not be negatively charged with high levels of frustration, tension and anger as it leads to disconnection and people giving the company their downside version.

Trust and intelligence are high on the agenda of leadership success today. It is not about being perfect. It is about being real, in touch with the realities that face them. These include the unfolding possi- bilities, the unexpected up- and down- turns, the psyche of the team, etc..

Leading is about soul searching from the basis of our own unique style. Then it is about never giving up and losing spirit.

One of my favourite proteges, Dr David Molapo, often says, ”Just like fruit on a tree, when we stop growing, we start to rot.”

Leadership in action brings forth the best or worst in us all, but leaders purposefully focus on taking the best route which will take the team towards making the difference that makes the difference. It’s in the simple fact that life is discovered. It is there where leadership is forged and sharpened.

Also read: 7 Habits of Effective Leaders

Bill Price

Dr Bill Price is an international speaker, author and executive coach. Dr Price is based in South Africa where he is well known as a leading Neuroscience practitioner and strategic sage who guides individuals, businesspeople and corporate leaders to achieve their full potential. He also helps empowers people in their personal lives around the themes, of leadership, getting the most out of life and relationships. Consider participating in one of Dr Bill Price's coaching courses or consider attending one of his free 'Synapses'. These neuroscience based webinars are held twice a month over Zoom dealing with a variety of different topics.

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