What does leadership mean to you? What’s the importance of leadership? Answering these two questions will help you understand how important leadership is to run a successful business.

A leader has a vision of where to go; the effective communication skills to explain it clearly and provide the space for creativity to execute it.

This is essentially what great leaders do. Don’t confuse what leadership is with how it gets done.

The what is the easy part.

The how, and executing on the what, is where things can get unstuck.

We’re all human; insecurities, ego’s, self-doubt and a whole host of things can contribute to poor leadership styles.

There’s no ‘one way’ to anything in life – and leadership is no different. Leadership is a verb. You have to take action even if that means learning from others.

Learn From The Best (And Worst)

I’ve been blessed to work for world renowned companies like Coca-Cola, Harrods and JP Morgan, as well as collaborate with the biggest retailers in South Africa: Pick n Pay, Shoprite Checkers, Woolworths, Spar and Makro to name a few. This has afforded me some of the best ‘on the job’ training courses in leadership; and boy have I learned some do’s and don’ts

Firstly, understand the difference between a manager and a leader:

  • Managers have people who work for them and delegate tasks.
  • Leaders have followers and inspire new ways of working by providing space for independent thinking and creativity to flow.

One creates subordinates, the other more leaders.

Imagine if every one of the 273 people that had hiked up with me ONLY wanted to hike with me? What if each one was given the understanding, knowledge, belief and capabilities to successfully run their own hikes independently?

Scarcity thinking doesn’t just happen with money; it happens with people too. How often do you think ‘all the good people are taken’? ‘Good people are so hard to find these days’?

A dear friend of mine, and now senior manager at PepsiCo UK, became known in his company in SA as ‘the incubator’. It first started when a poor performing employee had been shunted around from department to department until finally ending up with him. It was her last lifeline at the company. In less than a month she was flourishing in a new career path because of one thing:

He doesn’t believe in poor performers – just poor leadership.

Carl is an amazing human being though, one that combines extreme intelligence and understanding of what is needed, and the biggest heart wanting people to succeed and be happy. He invested in her and connected with her as an equal. She didn’t realise it at the time – but she had one of the top minds this country has ever produced in the field of Category Management – which is why such a massive global player snapped him up.

Practical Implementation In Your Company

Learning is nothing without using what resonates with you. To think about it differently here’s how I implement this with my hikes up Table Mountain. People of any fitness level or age are invited to join; so, I need to ask the right questions before the day of the hike (the interview) to ascertain fitness levels (job skills) to determine how long the hike will be (on the job training) to reach the top of the mountain (your company’s desired outcomes)

People may not be as fit as me (understanding your industry) but they haven’t done it as often as I have. Therefore, it’s my job to prepare them for what they need on the hike; any extreme weather predicted and how long it can take.

Understanding your people will create realistic expectations.

Some people struggle to the top, but leaving them behind doesn’t do them or the group (company) any good. I love the African proverb If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. You’re only as strong as your weakest link and understanding their needs can help you reach your goals quicker.

Perhaps they don’t have water, so sharing my water will increase the speed of getting to the top.

With proper leadership, you can train anybody to become a rock star in your organisation.

One person’s poor performer is another person’s champion.

Leadership Of Today

Relationship capital can only be built on core pillars with staff and customers/clients. We get what we focus on, so here are some Do’s to consider from what some of my greatest leaders have taught me.

  1. They treat you with respect first
  2. This is built because they ask of others what they do themselves, and consistently demonstrate their commitment with honesty and integrity.
  3. They align your career path with the company ensuring your development is a priority
  4. They’re effective in sharing not just what’s going on but why. They also ask more questions and develop greater understanding of others because of it.
  5. They know the difference between loyalty and servitude. They respect that people and circumstances change and only mutual respect is owed and thus don’t take what other people do personally.
  6. They look inwardly first when things are not working before blaming others. Due praise is always given to those who have done the work too. Jordan at Coca-Cola was a master at including us in emails to Senior Directors and even typing out parts of the email using our words and clearly stating that fact.

Final Thought

If I was only allowed one thing to take away from being in nature every day; it’s that we overcomplicate everything. If you want simplicity you have to simplify your life – and that is 100% in your control.

Leadership is an extension of how you treat people in general.

It’s that simple.

Ultimately, striving to become a better person will strengthen your leadership skills going forward.

Hope to see you on the mountain.

If you would like to support Andrew in his challenge 365 UbuntuClimbs, please visit his crowdfunding page

Andrew Patterson
Andrew is a big dreamer with an ambitious goal to positively empower 1 million people in 2018. With positivity, passion, purpose and being present, he aims to add value to his surroundings by sharing his challenges and learnings from his adventures past and present. His drive and determination will be pushed to the limit as he hikes up Table Mountain every single day in 2018 in lieu of raising money to empower the 1 million people by building homes with Habitat for humanity; teaching children to read with one Heart and giving people a second chance at life by increasing the leukaemia database with The Sunflower Fund.