Sunday, May 16, 2021 9:00 am
By Bayo Adeyinka
Whom do you allow to lead a country- a man who is an economic wizard and has been trained at the most prestigious universities but with very insignificant interpersonal skills and other soft skills or a man who is average in intellect but has outstanding interpersonal skills and is recognized as a bridge builder? I don’t think the answer is difficult.
Leadership involves a lot more than being able to express yourself in flowery oratory. It is a bit more than being able to flaunt your certificates. I am not disputing the place of brilliance in leadership but that’s not the endgame. A good leader does not actually need to be outstandingly brilliant- he/she just needs to be able to surround himself/herself with such people and then drive the process.
I have observed how emotional intelligence takes a greater chunk in how a career either rises or falls. I’ve seen very brilliant people fall by the wayside because they can’t grasp simple things like knowing when to speak or shut up. They also don’t understand the laws of power and they pay a heavy price for it.
I’m sharing a few tips that may be useful whether you aspire for political or career leadership.
1. Before You Give Others A Piece of Your Mind, Think Again
I’m not repressing your freedom of speech. I’m only asking you to think over and over about what you want to say. If you’re in a corporate meeting, think through your words before you say them. Cool off a bit if you’re in the midst of a heated discussion before you express your mind. Don’t serve it hot or you may be hurt in the process. Be tactful in your speech. My strategy is to write down on a piece of paper my thoughts so I can articulate them properly in a meeting. Your words may just sound ‘off’ if you’re not careful and you may not have that chance to recover again.
2. Always Observe Protocols
You may have brilliant ideas but if you are part of a structured system, go through the protocols to pass them across. It’s always a risk to jump protocols as you may land badly. Don’t jump the gun so you’re not gunned down. It’s often better to try to convince others to see the merit of your views. Don’t be seen to be instigating rebellion as that is the way your action may be misconstrued.
3. If You Goof, Admit
Don’t try to explain away your errors or mistakes. Take personal responsibility immediately- you may be punished for doing so but you’ll be respected all the same. Don’t dig a bigger hole by trying to cover a smaller one. Admitting your error does not diminish you in any way. That will make others see you as open and willing to learn. Some years ago, I had to openly admit to a supervisor that one of my team mates committed an error. However, I didn’t escalate on time. It was a painful decision that ended with me going on suspension- the very first in my career.
4. Never Bring Your Office Issues To The Public
This is for career people. I’ve had to reach out to a few young people on social media to pull down certain posts about their bosses, colleagues or offices. If you must discuss your work, let it be in a positive light. You can’t be earning your pay from a place and diss the place- no matter what has happened. If you must do that, quit first.
5. Build Bridges and Not Walls
It’s important that others in your team perceive you as a bridge builder. Don’t be interested in winning arguments at work or in life except you’re paid to do so as a lawyer. Life is more than winning arguments. Bend over backwards to accommodate different opinions and views. Know where to be rigid when values are involved but understand how to be flexible in order to move forward.
6. Be Loyal
If there’s a quality that leaders desire but is often in short supply, it is loyalty. Loyalty should not be misconstrued as sucking up. It’s not about gossiping about subordinates to the boss. If you gossip to them, they know you’ll gossip about them. Loyalty is fully supporting your boss to achieve their objectives. It is giving your all even when they’re not present. I tell people that loyalty is either 120% or nothing. 90% loyalty is disloyalty. If you want to go farther in leadership, be reliable. Let your boss be able to count on you. If he has to look over his back, you also need to watch your own back. I love the example of David. He had done enough for assumption of leadership but was distraught when he even cut off a piece of Saul’s cloth. Don’t cut a piece of your supervisor’s garment. If he’s naked, you’re naked. Let your posture be if he fails, I have failed.
7. Give Credit To Others Freely
The best kind of leaders are those who freely give credit to their team. You can’t do it all so you need the input and contribution of others. Give credit upwards- recognize the support of your supervisors. Acknowledge them openly. Make them look good. Give credit downwards- recognize the input of your subordinates. You’ll endear yourself to them and get their support that way. Give credit sideways- to your colleagues and other departments. You need cross functional support to maximize opportunities.
8. Don’t Be The One Who Knows It All
Don’t be quick to show off knowledge. You’ll just come off as ‘ITK’- ‘I too know’. Not many people love such people. Your knowledge must come with humility or it will be interpreted as arrogance. Don’t make others look stupid with your contribution. Pass on your message without getting nerves frayed. Recognize that everyone has an ego and the stupid ego is usually the bigger one. Truth is you don’t have to speak in every meeting. Many people just repeat what others have said and I usually wonder what the point is. Be measured in your communication and everyone will listen to you each moment you talk.
-Bayo Adeyinka, banker, writer, social entrepreneur, motivational speaker and public affairs analyst, writes from Lagos