Are you a leader or just a boss?

12 May 2021

Business is fundamentally about humans interacting with one another and anywhere you have human interaction, psychology plays a crucial role. It’s been said that leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality and most people would probably agree with that statement, but how does it translate into the perception and implementation of good leadership in actual practice? Together with psychologist and partner Lisa Brodin Ferraro at SCC member Persona Executive Ltd, the Link took a deep dive into the behaviourism behind good leadership. 


There are several ways psychology appears in business, the most obvious being when influencing and understanding other people and their behaviours; the less obvious but
equally, if not more important, is understanding yourself and the role you play as a leader.  Lisa jumps straight into the core and expands on the employees perspective; “It's important to understand that as a leader, you're not to be controlling the work but to be interested and give freedom under responsibility. Employees want reflection partners, not a guard or a supervisor.” Originating from Stockholm in 1984 as a business psychologist consultancy, Persona was established in London in 2015 with the main objectives to help businesses to be more humane and profitable by providing board of directors, senior managers and HR support with personality assessments in recruitment, executive coaching, management, team development and management due diligence.


Stability, openness to and for change 
The short answer to what good leadership really means is; it depends. Company size matters, organisational culture, strategic goals and business area are highly significant and influence the environment and require different tactics. According to Lisa, the cornerstone and foundation of good leadership are based on stability and adapting to change. Stability in itself might stem from a strong analytical skill, being able to foresee consequences of decisions, maturity of the individual leader to deal with different situations in a composed way and having the ability to self-reflect on shortcomings and limitations. Narcissistic, non-empathic tendencies are naturally a big red flag. Openness to change is linked to driving change, handling uncertainties and encompassing a positive attitude towards new techniques and solutions. 


Four practical tips for leadership in practice
It’s easy to talk about the concept of good leadership, but how does it pan out in real life? Lisa provides real-life examples of what has proven to be effective in big as well as small organisations. Firstly, identify the key behaviours that are successful in your organisation, and acknowledge and positively reinforce those behaviours. Secondly, feedback, feedback and continuous feedback in a way that effectively enhances the quality and work satisfaction. “This kind of feedback is specific in character and keeps in mind both the individual's development goals, as well as the goals of the organisation as a whole.” Connect the feedback to a bigger picture and set the context to understand why they are receiving positive feedback. “We tend to focus on behaviours we don't want to see and talk about them, rather than focusing on the key behaviours of success.” 

Thirdly, never stop learning, evolving or reflecting upon ways of learning. To keep the organisation on its toes, a leader must create a learning structure in response to continuous technical, political, financial or market change. The leader needs to keep learning and reflect, ‘how are we working?’, ‘what are we doing right?’ and ‘what isn’t working?’ Lastly, implement processes to encourage cooperation and communication between different functions to understand common and overall goals. By creating forums for employees from different functions, the leader can bridge knowledge gaps to ensure each perspective is considered before a strategic decision is made. To avoid making decisions in one part of the organisation that affects another part of the organisation negatively. 


A learning environment: constant challenge and re-thinking leadership 
“A growing demand on leaders today is to be present, have emotional stability and the ability to prioritise. To set healthy boundaries and care for your own wellbeing as well as for your employees.” Related to this is the leader’s and team members' desire to do a good job whilst working from home, which can add a high-stress level, which the ongoing pandemic has not helped. Uncertainty diminishes the positive effects of performing well, generally boosted by progress and innovation. The main thing the leader has to focus on is to give feedback in a natural and built-in way in everyday work. Having a leader encouraging their employees under pressure will help the team steer objectively and calmly through crises and other changing processes. Re-thinking how you lead and resetting how you reinforce your team members is therefore pivotal “We tend to focus on behaviours we don't want to see, rather than focusing on the key behaviours of success.” 

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