It can be lonely being the boss. This blog by MD of The Drum Network Richard Draycott aims to support all those agency CEOs, MDs and managers who frequently don't know where or who to turn to when the shit hits the fan or when they just need some friendly advice. The Drum Network's community of agency owners means that good advice is never too far away, so 'Keep Calm and Carry On'. Since 1998 Richard Draycott has been a marketing journalist and has edited magazines such as The Drum, Adline, The Marketeer and The Firm. He was also previously the Media Editor at the Scotsman during Andrew Neil's reign as Editor in Chief and considers his greatest achievement never to have met Mr Neil in the flesh. During his time in media he has met thousands of agency owners - the good, the bad and the ugly. Now he spends his days working closely with marketing services agency owners across the UK using his insights to help them raise their media profiles, make their businesses famous (so they can win more client business) and generally supporting their business growth needs in his role as the MD of The Drum Network.
It is highly unlikely that you are the only leader in your business. You’ll no doubt have a partner with whom you decided to launch your business with or with whom you acquired your agency business and if you are serious about building an agency that will one day become a valuable asset you will have appointed various people to positions of leadership with the various parts and departments of your agency.
But, it is always important to remember that just because somebody attains or is given a position of leadership it doesn’t necessarily mean they should have that position of leadership. Our world, like many others, has developed in such a way that when somebody is good in their job – be that a sales job, a creative role or a project management role – the only way for them to progress up the ladder is for them to be put in charge of people, to whom they can lead and pass on their knowledge and skills. However, the fact is that not everybody is a born leader. So, how do you tell your good leaders from your bad leaders – other than counting up the list of internal gripes against them?
Here is a quick quiz to help you figure out who are your best leaders. On a separate piece of paper write down the names of the people in your agency in a leadership role, including yourself. Then score them between one and ten (one being poor and ten being outstanding) in the following ten important characteristics of great leadership. At the end total all the scores and see how each person rates against each other. Is it as you had expected? Are there some surprises? How did you fair against your colleagues and staff?
Great leaders need great vision, almost a sixth sense for where things are heading in the future and the ability to inspire and motivate their people to buy-in and move in that direction. Do your leaders demonstrate genuine vision and a desire to follow their instincts, which usually turn out to be right.
Leaders need integrity to succeed in the long term. They need to be empathetic towards the people that they lead and refuse to accept or rationalise unethical behaviour, even it does fulfil a short term objective. Unethical leaders will eventually come undone.
While past performance is not always a good indicator of future performance or events, a leader who continually fails in their own role can never be a great leader. Leaders have to lead by example.
The best leaders know that they don’t know everything and that they have to rely on the knowledge of those around them to be successful in their role. A great leader doesn’t need to be the smartest person in a room, but knows that that room has to be filled with the smartest people they can find. That said, a desire to continually learn new ways to do things is vital for any great leader and a genuine motivation for those working under their leadership.
Great leaders have to be great communicators. A great leader has to get his team behind them, all working in a unified way towards a common objective and this can only be achieved by open, honest and upfront communication. Are the leaders in your business good communicators? Do they say what needs to be said when it needs to be said? Do they address issues as soon as they arise, or let them fester? Does everyone in their team know where they stand, how their performance is rated and areas to address?
Any leader is only as good as his or her team’s desire to be led by them. An arrogant leader is a bad leader, one who sees themselves and the role that they provide above that of other members of their team. Great leaders take the blame and give out credit - not vice versa.
The best leaders are those who can be fluid and flexible in their approach to leadership. While they will have their own strong views on direction etc, great leaders can take on board the ideas and opinions of others and use them constructively to develop a direction for the team. Communications skills are important in being seen as a flexible leader. Being flexible isn’t about being a ‘yes man’, but ensuring that all angles on a situation are examined before a decision on direction is taken.
Leaders who accept the status quo or are more concerned with survival than growth will seldom do well in the long term. Great leaders revel in leading change and innovating in such a way that their team/department/organisation continues to move forward and beat rivals to the future.
Great leaders want to invest in the people they lead. The best leaders invest their time, effort and often money in making their individuals the best they can be in all areas of their performance. Great leaders create an environment where their followers can be brilliant at what they do, free of the fear of recrimination should things go wrong. Great leaders learn more from failure than success.
Culture is increasingly important in business and great leaders don’t leave the culture within their department or agency to chance and let it develop by default. They don’t let their culture’s development be led by anyone other than themselves with the buy-in of their entire team. They are fiercely protective of their culture once they have it right and are careful who they let enter and influence that culture. Negative traits, such as bad attitudes and bad work ethic can quickly divide what was once a unified culture and great leaders address this immediately.
There are no wrong or right answers here. This approach just gives you as a business leader some focus points from which to assess how you are as a leader yourself and, perhaps more importantly, how you are at developing the leaders within your own business.
Once you have done this for the leaders win your business, invite them to do the same for themselves and their colleagues. After which, you could take an afternoon away from the office with your fellow leaders to talk through the findings and what it could mean for the various areas of your business.
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