The Leadership Triad: Core Behaviours for Success

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Leaders are made, not born. These three behaviours will lay the groundwork to understand yourself and become a better leader.

Good leaders want to improve, even when it’s hard. Their moral compass shows them that better leaders help create a positive and inclusive work environment to engage the people they work with. Strong leaders prioritize setting goals and making time to learn how to do their job better, whether it’s communication, decision-making, setting structures, inspiring and motivating people or holding themselves accountable.

This point seems so obvious, right? To get better, you actually have to want it and be willing to do the work. A secret of adulthood that I’ve learned over the years is that not everyone wants to get better. But the work is worth it! It will make a real difference for your job, for your relationships and for your personal satisfaction as people notice your growth, admire your commitment and feel more connected to you. These next two fundamental behaviours will help you on the journey.

You don’t have to know everything as a leader. It’s OK to admit that you made a mistake. While it’s true that leaders are hired for their skills and knowledge and are expected to be able to deliver, it’s also true that good leaders are vulnerable. We all have things to learn about our work and about ourselves.

Humble and vulnerable leaders are more authentic and human; they build trust with those they work with. They set an example for accountability and show learning from mistakes is a natural part of growth. Humility also means that they handle feedback with grace and adapt to change more readily.

Give yourself a little test. Do you ever expose your emotions with those you work with? Do you admit when you’re wrong? Do you seek input from others to encourage diverse voices and perspectives and find more culturally competent ways to do things? If not, how might you learn to be more vulnerable? To learn even more about the power of vulnerability, watch Brené Brown’s TED talk. It has changed how we view vulnerability at work and at home.

We hear a lot about how important feedback for a reason. Suzi McAlpine said in a recent post, “One of the biggest mistakes leaders make is not taking the time, or calling on the courage required, to increase their self-awareness… it also means understanding ‘how the world sees us’.”

None of us see ourselves the way others see us, it’s impossible. Here’s an illustration. You hear yourself speaking in a video or audio clip, but you don’t recognize your own voice. It takes several times of hearing it before you accept that it’s really you and then a little time after that before you recognize your voice when you hear it on a recording. Understanding how people see your behaviours as a manager, CEO, supervisor, or boss is much the same. You may be surprised or even shocked to hear how others see you. Still, how can you be effective when you’re not operating with full knowledge of yourself and your impact?

An important first step in this process to understand others’ viewpoints is to recognize your social location and your identities. If you haven’t gone through this experience yet, you really need to. People will see you through these identities at work, and that influences how they respond and work with you. For example, my identities give me both great privilege and act as barriers because of the systems in our society. They affect how people see me at work and in the world. Identifying my social location shows I’m aware and that identity matters for everyone.

Next, you need to gather honest feedback. It can be tricky for the people who report to you to critique their boss, so how do you pull this kind of feedback? How might you train yourself to see feedback in every conversation and interaction, without directly asking for it?

McAlpine offers very practical steps and advice in her post and you can visit there to read more. I also recommend the book “Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well” by Stone and Heen for a realistic and funny approach.

Leadership is bound up inextricably with who we are, how we behave at work, and how others see us. The three fundamental behaviours described above are a good place to start to understand your leadership. Where do you want to go next on this adventure?

Read more from my archive:

Feedback. Priceless.

Two Essential Questions for Reflection

Learning From My Mistakes


3 Responses to “The Leadership Triad: Core Behaviours for Success”

  1. Susan Bosher Avatar
    Susan Bosher

    “How might you train yourself to see feedback in every conversation and interaction, without directly asking for it?”
    This would be a good topic to explore! With this outcome in mind how might it frame a conversation? I’m already thinking about what this would like before, during, and after a conversation.

    1. You’re so right, Susan. Every day we receive tons of feedback from others – the trick is knowing how to recognize it, then decide if it’s useful (it may not be) and then decide what to do with it. I think I feel another post coming on…

  2. Thanks for the shout out Sue! Greatly appreciated. Cheers Suzi

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