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Leadership...easy, right?!

Coach Andy Nisevic by Andy Nisevic
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In this humble writers' opinion, leadership is a paradox. It's simultaneously the easiest and hardest job in the world. Put simply, a leader identifies what motivational goals a subordinate has, then uses that to help them achieve beyond what they thought was possible. The but; what works for one, won't work for another. So how do you balance out meeting all of your subordinates' motivational needs, without upsetting someone. Put simply, you can't.

Any true leader sees leadership as a privilege. It's not about being in charge and being able to tell people what to do, it comes with significant responsibility. You are now responsible for the development of your personnel. Your future success no longer comes from your own output, but from that of your team's. Therefore, for your ambitions to be achieved, you need to create a team that thrives on success, and delivers high quality output. Ultimately, you need to train people to be your replacement.

One hard true fact of leadership is: it doesn't matter what you want, if your team doesn't buy into your vision, you're setting yourself up to fail. Another hard truth of being a leader: you're never going to please everyone all of the time. With those facts in mind, how on earth do you maintain motivation, if you accept some won't like your methods.

The simple answer is, do you best. The less simple answer is listen, acknowledge their concerns and empower them to find the solution. In a previous role of mine, I was responsible for 3 shifts of 7 personnel, providing a 24/7 surveillance and data exchange capability on military ops. Members of the team were unhappy with the shift rotation pattern and wanted to explore alternative ideas. As the person who'd implemented the system, I knew it was the best with the resources available. I could have played the old fashioned higher rank card, and told them to just get on with it. However that would have disillusioned intelligent individuals who may not feel able to discuss future concerns which may be rectifiable. Instead, I listened and sign posted them to a number of policies I felt they weren't aware of. I asked them to research and come back to me with a proposal. Within 2-days they came back to me and acknowledged the system in place was the best that could be achieved. Any changes would have a detrimental effect.

I was incredibly proud of that moment. Whilst the additional work I set resulted in me having to cover more of the operational task, meaning longer hours to achieve my managerial output (in the short-term), it resulted in a team who no longer had concerns, and who's output and attitude increased astronomically. That attitude and output then became infectious amongst the other teams, which made my life much simpler for the rest of the deployment. One simple conversation, and a little bit of sacrifice, resulted in teams who were willing to go above and beyond because they had faith their leadership had their best interests at heart.

What's the moral of the story? It's not about being right, it's about your team understanding why it's right. When you play to your team's strengths, listen to them, and empower them, you develop a team with a single vision, who work for you and each other. Then, when you have to make the inevitable hard decision that upsets people, the impact is mitigated by their faith that you are doing the best you can.


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