They say that one of the most important attributes of a good leader is to be honestly self-critical and reflective. 

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”– Confucius

 Given that we said that leadership would be one of three main focuses for us as a learning community this year I would like to extend a little challenge to you all. What if there really were such a thing as “twenty-twenty hindsight”? If you were to write a letter to your younger self, what would it say?....anything like this for example….?

Dear John,

Be authentic. Tell the truth and explain the WHY. Show yourself as being vulnerable at times so people see you as real and true.

Focus on leaving a legacy from the very start of your career. It will make you take the time to talk to people and if you start out wanting to be remembered then you will lead that way. You will screw up – admit it as quickly as you can.

Pick a leadership tool that you can relate to and stick with so you can use it wisely. Servant leadership was the one tool I picked because it recognises that leadership is symbiotic and depends greatly on how successfully we create and manage relationships. It will help you know how best to lead.

Hire the right people — surround yourself with people that you can nurture or learn from. Make sure you also have an irritant. They will make you think differently and whilst working with them will take your energy and test your patience, the value they bring will be worth it.

Tell stories — about yourself in particular. When you share your own opinions, thoughts, fears, choices, challenges, failures and decisions and talk or write about it people will begin to see who you are and what you stand for – it makes you genuine.

Develop the next generation of leaders — mentor, guide, spend time with them. It will be the greatest investment you make. Don’t talk about it or boast about it. Over time the people will talk about you and that will gradually build a reputation for you that is much more meaningful. Find someone yourself who will give you tough messages and guide you. Listen to them.

Don’t take yourself too seriously and make sure fun and humour is part of work. People like to laugh and it’s good for your wellbeing so never forget to bring fun into the work place.

Empower people — do NOT micro-manage. Delegate significant responsibilities not just things you don’t want to do. It will stretch and develop people around you and they will respect the fact you have trusted them. They will make you proud.

Engage widely with all members of groups you lead — not just your own direct reports. Ask everyone to contribute their thoughts on topics where you are the final decision maker; always make that point clear up front. Avoid hierarchical leadership at all times but balance it with a leadership presence that engages people to WANT to work for you.

Seek feedback on how you are doing and what you have done — don’t wait for your boss to do it.

write mid-year and end of year messages aimed at everyone in your group and don’t mention achievements, milestones or goals. Talk about what made you proud, what you would like to have done differently and show your appreciation. When someone tells you someone else has done something good then reach out to them to add your gratitude. A simple email or phone call is worth a lot with people.

Be visible. Go on walkabouts, have coffee, stop and talk — wherever you are. It’s where you will truly find out what is going on and what people are thinking or what is an issue. Make sure you listen, act and feedback.

Don’t break a promise. Deliver on your commitments. Drive for extraordinary results. Showcase the work your group does and give airtime to others to get the credit.

Be passionate about what you believe and live by your values — don’t look upwards for instructions or downwards for gratitude.

Remember this is your life and work is a part of it — get the balance right.

You’re about to have a ball so enjoy! I wish I could do it all again …