Leadership learning is for life
Mike Dean reflects a classic Leadership Trust tale. Mike experienced the Leadership Trust in 1996 and has been applying his learning ever since, in different business life-stages. Looking back he highlights how his learnings helped him tackle tough leadership challenges. Mike’s work-life generations can be described as the ambitious learner, the empathic navigator and the wise advisor.
The ambitious learner
Lesson 1/ After a learning experience think carefully about how the new you impacts on those around you.
“Out of the blue one day, my boss told me I needed to do a leadership course. He’d done it and now it was my time. It sounds like a rite of passage and maybe it is. Anyway, who was I to doubt his wisdom? He was a brilliant guy, but incredibly demanding and he knew I’d reached the point where I could handle the learning. Looking back you rely on people to recognise when you’re ready for this kind of learning experience and now it’s my time to advise others on what learning experiences they would gain from.”
“At the time I was a rookie account manager at Marconi and had been asked to lead a difficult project on the £1bn BT account. I’d inherited a bunch of technical challenges that I needed to turn around and my boss clearly thought I’d rise to this business challenge and that some leadership ‘ideas’ would help me on my way.”
“Naturally, I was part of an account team and my boss’s first inspired decision was not to put our team through the programme in one group but mix us up with outsiders. A big part of the learning was being thrown together with leaders from a raft of businesses in different markets and with different leadership challenges. Because my boss had experienced the Leadership Trust himself he appreciated the value of building relationships with leaders who could help me think differently about my situation.”
“The one thing my boss said that’s stuck with me ever since was “don’t come back thinking you’re better than everyone else.” It’s a challenge after a high-impact learning experience, you feel energised and question those around you. The key is to use the techniques and tools you’ve learnt to raise the game of those around you, as well as yourself.”
The empathetic navigator
Lesson 2/Know and control yourself, before you lead and enable others
“Fast forward a decade. Having left the corporate world, I was now acting as an Interim Director with a diverse portfolio of clients. My next business life-stage was working with a change-management contractor.”
“Marconi had faced massive market challenges and after a series of mergers, divisions and restructures reduced headcount rapidly over a couple of years. During the downsizing I developed a reputation for both making and carrying out tough restructuring decisions.”
“My work leading teams through change captured the attention of PERA, who asked me to lead the rapid mobilisation of a newly won major national government contact. I was hired to get the job done with rigour and sensitivity. Again knowing myself helped me handle the pressure with confidence and self-belief and I can honestly say that during this tough assignment I called upon my Leadership Trust experience many times over“
“There is huge pressure dealing with the impact of large scale redundancy on people’s lives and families. And this was when I called on the resources I developed at the Leadership Trust. How to manage my own emotions.”
The board advisor
Lesson 3/ Empathise with young leaders as they tackle their own challenges.
“Roles have now reversed and I’m the one providing advice to leaders, helping entrepreneurs of rapidly growing businesses to take their teams through challenging situations. It’s a rewarding role where I can objectively challenge leaders by empathising with their situation.”
“I can talk from first-hand experience about the importance of knowing yourself and point them to the Leadership Trust, as my boss did with me. It’s reassuring to know that 20 years on from my learning experience, while digital technology has dramatically increased the pace of change, fundamental human principles still apply to building trust, motivating teams and shaping a progressive culture.”
Mike is one of tens of thousands of leaders who have benefited from the Leadership Trust experience throughout their working life.
Testimony to the simple truth that having a deep understanding of yourself stands you in good stead to cope with all eventualities and is the single most important thing a leader needs to know.
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