In Part I, I shared one of the key principles that separates the best leaders from the rest. If you haven’t already, be sure to read that before moving on (click here to read Part 1).
In this article, I dive straight in and answer the questions that wrapped up Part I:
How do you begin to operate at this level of “Playing to Win”?
How do you apply the principle of stewardship?
For starters, the following three actions will help. Whether you run a FTSE 100 company, Fortune 500 company, are on the Board of a medium-sized business, or own and run a small business, these can apply to you.
1. Recognise that effective leadership begins as an inside job
It’s very easy for senior leaders to become so consumed with addressing the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of their external world that they pay very little attention to the VUCA within. This goes way beyond simply incorporating mindfulness and regular exercise into your daily routine but involves doing the hard work of clarifying your values, walking with integrity, cultivating habits that maximise your energy and courage, addressing shadow beliefs, and growing your emotional intelligence. This will help you lead from a place of purpose rather than a place of fear.
2. Stay close to where the action is
Part of the challenge of leadership is that the typical hierarchy in most organisations means that as you develop as a leader, you move further away from the frontline action and often lose touch with the reality of the day-to-day challenges your people and customers actually face. To counter that, make it a habit to regularly visit and talk directly to your customers, walk the floor of your business and have lunch with frontline colleagues. Don’t just analyse business data, get under the skin of it by having real conversations with the people at the coal-face of your business. If you see your role as removing obstacles for your people and solving your customers' challenges, the only way you can truly do that is to intimately understand the obstacles and challenges as best as you can.
3. Guard yourself against the danger of privileges
I absolutely believe in leaders being rewarded for their work, contribution and results. However, the privileges that you receive by virtue of your position can so easily get to your head and cause you to rely on your power, authority, position and intelligence to influence others, instead of your character. That’s when leaders begin to abuse their position, make unethical decisions and compromise their values. That’s also when they begin to lose the respect of those who look up to them. So, put checks in place to guard against abusing your position and the privileges that come with it. Some great examples of checks used by senior leaders include, advisory boards, salary caps and charitable giving commitments.
Our world needs leaders who are more devoted to serving others than they are themselves. The payoff is not only improved performance, results and engagement in the workplace, but also a sound night’s sleep.