Wise words, once spoken by World Cup-winning rugby player, Jonny Wilkinson.
It’s an observation that will resonate with several ambitious members of the UK parliament at the moment, as they await a sequence of ballots that will make one of them the new leader of the Conservative Party and, by default, the Prime Minister.
This current leadership battle (and I’m choosing my words carefully) got us thinking about the essence of modern leadership.
What are the qualities that today’s leaders need to succeed, whether in the sporting arena, political bearpit or corporate sphere?
Three top leadership tips (from the experts)
We’re living in the digital age but that doesn’t mean face to face interaction is dead. A 2010 studyby The Work Foundation concludes that ‘outstanding leaders spend time talking with people to understand what motivates them and how they can inspire and enthuse others’.
A point proven by HP’s David Packard and Apple’s Steve Jobs, who are among those famous for adopting MBWA (managing by walking around) as a core tenet of their leadership philosophies.
And if you think you don’t have time to chew the fat with shop floor colleagues and middle managers, consider this: Starbucks founder Howard Schultz visited 25 Starbucks stores per week when he was running the company.
A 2018 Harvard Business Review article Why Do So Many Managers Forget They’re Human Beings? highlights the need for the human touch, pointing to leadership pioneer Peter Drucker’s assertion: “You cannot manage other people unless you manage yourself first.”
Drucker argues that self-awareness in leaders can significantly increase engagement and performance among their people.
So, seek feedback from lots of people, listen to it and evaluate it. Looking for even more self-awareness? The article also suggests mindfulness meditation as a way to boost your inner knowledge.
In his 2014 book Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t, Simon Sinek suggests that the best leaders focus on creating a safe environment for their people. By ‘safe’, he means not just physically, but also psychologically, secure. When freed from the tyranny of fear, he argues, people’s brains are cut loose to innovate and progress, which benefits the business as a whole.
Clearly, then, research in the modern workplace suggests that great leaders are more concerned with enabling others than focusing on themselves.
Messrs Johnson, Gove and Hunt may want to take note.You don’t decide whether you’re a leader. Other people decide for you.”