Why Most ‘How To Be A Leader’ Opinions Are Unhelpful!

I was reading an HR forum blog recently and someone was commenting on what they thought good leaders had to do in organisations:

  1. Put your people first
  2. Empower them to make their own decisions
  3. Trust people
  4. Pay them well
  5. Inspire them
  6. Lead from the front

You get the gist - Those of you who read my stuff know that I think this is all a bit 'PHD in stating the obvious'. But it strikes me that often those who are recommending/training these principles have never managed people because if they had done, they will know that the reality of 'leadership' can be difficult when you're up against it on a Thursday afternoon and everything is hitting the fan, multiple crises are being juggled, you're not feeling your best and amazing leadership is the last thing on your mind!

In real-life, managers and leaders have personalities that perhaps make them a bit short-tempered or a touch 'I'll do it myself' or perhaps say the odd flip thing that they haven't realised the other person has taken offence to. When up against short deadlines and stress, some 'leaders' are a bit off-hand, start micro-managing or put a lot of pressure on others. People then shout that they don't have a great manager - and then someone suggests some leadership training!!

It doesn't help (and I witnessed this once) where the awful 'copy and paste content from online' is slapped into a two-day PowerPoint workshop that managers have to sit through which tells them that Richard Branson was an 'inspirational' leader, that Nelson Mandela was apparently 'paternalistic' or Anita Roddick was 'consultative' and you are then asked to CHOOSE which leadership style you are going to pick!! Isn't that just so neat and tidy and ridiculous? "Now, everything right now is a nightmare but let me just reflect on the leadership style I said I would use and see how I can deploy that in the next hour!".

Let's face it: very few of us have had great bosses (and by the way, we might have thought they were great but perhaps their bosses thought they weren't so hot when it came to eg managing performance or getting the bigger things done). Because: it is really difficult to be a good boss/leader - and no amount of expensive, forgettable classroom training is going to sort that. The best we can do is remove the obstacles that the people in charge have to cope with and give them really practical stuff they ACTUALLY USE!- and perhaps then they will get the breathing space to think about how they come across, how they operate with their teams and go and try something new.

Pointless 'leadership advice' is like telling people who have gained weight the best ways to diet - easy to say, difficult to do in practice.

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