Let me start by being slightly controversial. Read all the self help books you like, educate yourself in all the ways of thinking in relation to management and leadership. Then throw them in the bin and look inside yourself because that’s where the answers are for real leaders. Otherwise, you’re not really a leader, you’re a follower waiting for someone else to spout the latest, greatest new management theory.
Set aside titles too. If you are in management, you are a leader regardless of what age or stage you’re at. So here are my top tips – and they may surprise you:
- Always be true to yourself and who you are. If you’re a leader, it is one of the things that makes you stand out – it gives a certainty that allows others to follow you. It also shows strength. There are moments in the early days when you’re honing your judgement and you might wobble because it might feel easier to fit in. Trust me, it’s not.
- Keep your head when all around are losing theirs. Learn to grasp complex situations quickly, cut through to the heart of an issue, pay attention to detail and then make a decision when others are too scared or too unsure to do so. Regardless of your position, age or gender, people will look to you and accept your leadership if you can do this.
- Be brave – step forward and step up, to lead and show courage even when you don’t feel it. Being brave isn’t optional when you lead, it’s a fundamental requirement.
- Humanity and compassion isn’t for outside the workplace, it goes hand in hand with being tough and challenging in business.
- Kindness is not a weakness. That is possibly the most important thing you will read in this blog… People being frightened of you will take you so far as a leader. However, when they admire and respect you, you will all achieve things you didn’t think possible because they will work with you, share their ideas without being scared to and they will trust you. You can be direct without being brutal, you can challenge without being destructive and you can be strong without weakening others.
- Always make time for people, no matter how busy you are. People are all that matters, regardless of the business you are in.
- Don’t be afraid to be human. Leadership isn’t about standing back, it’s about getting involved and letting people see how much something means to you.
- Believe in yourself. It’s not overweaning ambition that burns at my core – it’s the flame of self-belief. I think self-confidence is only possible when you have self-belief. When I believe, I can go in to bat for anyone and anything. It’s what makes me brave. It’s what lies behind my leadership every day.
And on the few occasions when my self belief dips and I think today’s the day I will be found out, on my wristband are the words “she believed she could, so she did”. But always my way!
Jacqui Low is the Executive Chairman of Indigo