I got interviewed by Indra Gardiner, who is the CEO of BaileyGardiner Creative Agency, a leading PR and Advertisement Agency in San Diego. After one year of working together in a coaching, Indra asked me seven questions about leadership coaching and getting their business to the next level.
1. How do you define successful leadership?
Successful leadership requires two kinds of people – people who lead and people who want to follow. Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner say leadership is a relationship between those who aspire to lead and those who choose to follow.
• Do you really want to follow that person?
• Would you want to go through the fire for that person?
• Do people stand behind that person?
Answering yes to these questions points to a successful leader.
Remember you can’t have everyone follow you, so who are you leading? Have you found the right people to lead? We have a lot of different constituents. How do we engage the different stakeholders so that they are all engaged? Great leaders figure this out.
2. Do you think leaders are born or taught? I believe they are taught. Anybody can learn effective practices to be a good leader. Some may have natural talent or dispositions that make them a more natural leader but even those people have to learn and refine their skills.
Leadership is not objective. It is a subjective experience to the people who are following. In leadership it’s not as obvious as, for example, listening to a piano player who you would know right away whether you respond or not. True leadership has a lot to do with personal perception and emotional response of the people around the leader. That’s hard to measure and can change over time.
Everybody can learn skills to be a leader, even people who are introverts. The ultimate measure of a leader is credibility – do people believe in that person? We gain credibility from our actions and congruency between what we say and what we do. So based on that, I can be an introvert but in my own authentic way through what I say and do, become an effective leader.
3. What are the 3 biggest mistakes you see people in leadership positions make? Let’s talk about people in managerial roles for this question. I think that is most applicable.
1) They will say things to appear a certain way or, for example, they often think they should know all the answers rather than ask people for help. They become inauthentic. People feel and detect that. That diminishes the leadership impact. Be true to yourself – be authentic and sincere.
2) Lack of trust. Managers do not engage with their constituents enough or get to a trusted level and that creates an atmosphere of doubt or suspicion. To be effective, spend time connecting with people, build trust and rapport. Show that you care. Engage their hearts/emotions.
3) Lack of strategic direction. A key mistake is not spending enough time on big picture thinking – where is the organization going? What are the trends? How do we adapt? How do we position within the marketplace? Make time for strategic questions/issues. I often see mangers who do not spend enough time sharing strategic vision with their team. We get too caught up in action, budgets, interruptions and the daily to do list. The key is to set a high priority on the long-term vision. Keep going back to that.
4. What advice would you give to someone looking to grow their leadership skills? Do a perception check. Understand what people around you, your constituents and stakeholders, think and say about you when you’re not around. One way to do that is to get candid and honest feedback. Anonymous 360 surveys are good for this. Hire a coach (like Simon!) and have him/her talk to the stakeholders so they have a neutral environment.
5. Can you share a favorite quote about leadership? If you don’t believe in the messenger, you won’t believe the message.
– Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner
6. Any books you suggest people read to learn more? The Leadership Challenge – Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner
What Got You Here, Won’t Get you There – Marshall Goldsmith (side note – I was reading this book when I met Simon and, since life is strange that way, turns out that Marshall is Simon’s mentor).
7. Final thoughts I believe, ultimately, leadership starts with the person and leadership development comes down to self development. If you want to be a strong leader, start with yourself. Be aware of your behavior and how you come across. What feelings do you leave people with? How do others experience you? Get an objective view of yourself and start improving your behavior. You will see the change you desire.
By Indra Gardiner Bowers, COO & Founder of Bailey Gardiner