Credible leadership


This is the third in my series of articles on leadership and, so far, we’ve touched on inspirational leaders, and the importance of communication and listening.

Some leaders have a natural knack of getting the best out of their people and others, sadly, don’t. I believe that one of the best ways of determining what makes a good leader is to think about people you’ve worked for.

  • Who inspired you?
  • Who demotivated you?
  • And who were you just indifferent about?

You can also apply this thinking to people you come across in your business or personal life and come up with a template for an inspirational leader. When I reflect on the different people I’ve come across during my career, the one who had a significant impact on my life was Bob. He led the marketing team for a major corporate and, over past weeks, I’ve shared with you some of the things that made him stand apart from the rest.

Leaders need credibility

I think the over-riding thing Bob taught me is that leaders need credibility. They can’t be too friendly with the people who work for them and nor can they be too distant. They have to walk that fine line of being seen as impartial and treating everyone fairly; and they have to be able to praise and to discipline, when necessary.

This can be especially difficult when someone is promoted from within the workplace and finds him or herself in charge of people who were previously their peers. Or when a business expands and the owner suddenly finds themselves moving away from the ‘shop floor’ and having to take a more strategic role, instead of rolling their sleeves up and working alongside their employees.

Peers – handling promotion

I discussed this recently with Bob and he explained that he had been in a similar situation, when he was promoted from a relatively junior position to director level, at the young age of 29. He admitted that he found it difficult to wean himself off ‘running with the hare and hounds’ and not going ‘down the pub’ every Friday night. “I still went to the pub,” he says, “but I just had one drink and then left – I didn’t stay the course.”

Bob’s advice is ‘don’t rush the break, it will work itself out’. But he cautioned the need to start projecting yourself in a different way. I agree with this advice and I would also stress the importance of communication and listening! Talk to the team about your plans and how you can only achieve them with their support; ask for their ideas and keep them updated on progress. Show them that you are working on their behalf, that you all have the same goal and that you can succeed together.

Mentoring client

One of my mentoring clients runs a small business that has expanded substantially over the last year. As a result, there was a need for her to be out with new clients and also tackling the growing pile of paperwork. All great news, but her biggest concern was that her team – who had become her friends – would think she ‘had ideas above her station’ or was being stand-offish if she wasn’t on the shop-floor every day. I explained that it’s perfectly natural to feel this way and we talked about the action she should take.

I was, therefore, thrilled to hear this week that our chat had given her the confidence to discuss her plans with her team, tell them where she was going, when and why. And she’s discovered that her employees are interested to hear what she’s doing and pleased to know she’s out there working on their behalf. And as for my client, she’s feeling great knowing the team feels involved, so everyone’s a winner.

Bob’s Gems – credible leadership

1. Don’t be too friendly or too distant – find the balance and walk the fine line of impartiality and treating everyone fairly; whilst being able to praise and discipline when necessarily.

2. Don’t run with the hare and hounds.

3. Do talk about your plans for the business / team, and ask for their feedback and ideas.

4. Do, as always, communicate and listen!

UCan Training’s next workshop for business owners is Setting and Achieving Your Goals on the 18th April 2013.  If you would like more details of how UCan Training can help you and your business with training workshops, or our coaching and mentoring services, please email

Leadership articles

4 February – It’s a question of leadership

19 February – Leadership communication


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