Leadership is understanding

BSBG Partner Andrew Bereza writes on leadership, listening and understanding…

Everyone can identify someone in their working life who, as a leader, knew how to get the best out of their people. This leader was someone that everyone responded to and worked hard to deliver their best work for.

Great leaders will usually display similar charactersistics and attributes, such as the ability to inspire and motivate, a focus on results, offering encouragement for innovative thought, providing clear direction and feedback, helping to develop skills, etc…

But no leader is born with this entire skillset. These attributes are cultivated and developed over time, and this is because of the implementation of another skill, another characteristic that perhaps outweighs each of the aforementioned: the ability to ask the right questions to the right people at the right time. And, more importantly, to listen, comprehend and apply the information gained from the answer.

Asking questions effectively eventually leads to the leader advancing all the other skills mentioned previously. But it’s not a self-serving act, and nor is it a spurious act designed to make those working under the leader feel valued. Its benefits to the leader, the business, the job at hand and the people involved in the job are boundless.

Leadership questions

Everyday a leader will be asking questions, almost relentlessly. To colleagues and employees, to clients and peers. Asking questions is often a leader’s only way to source information – it’s certainly the most powerful. It represents an invaluable way to listen to staff members and external parties, and it offers insight into what is important to them as individuals. Are they happy in their role, do they have any other skills that are not being fully utilised, and are they motivated? These are core concerns for anybody leading a team, because what’s important to the team members, is important to the leader.

Listening is understandingThe best results are derived from a collaborative effort between the right people. A leader will often have their own opinion, and an approach to a task in mind that they consider to be correct, but they will always leave the door open for an alternative viewpoint. By asking for feedback from staff relating to a task or a working methodology, the leader is not only opening up a potential avenue to improve the working practice, it will also make the staff feel part of the team and will make them start to think more in-depth about the project at hand. An employee that is capable of thinking beyond the task they have been assigned and about the bigger picture of the entire project is a prized asset for any leader.

Ask yourself

But there is one final area of questioning that isn’t visible or tangible externally. This is the internal dialogue that the very best leaders must listen to constantly. Questioning themselves. “Did I deal with that situation the best way?” “Am I aware of the critical aspects of this project?” “What would the leaders I look up to do in this situation?” “What questions can I ask to my employees to get the information I need, to get the best out of them, and to advance this project?”

This list is endless, but it’s a constant within the mind of the archetypal leader. In architecture and engineering, a great leader who drives a team to design and develop quality and lasting buildings to programme must be self-aware, informed and courageous enough to lead them through a constantly evolving process – taking challenges in their stride. But as a leader, as someone who displays leadership qualities, or as someone who aspires to take up a leadership role, the key to accomplishment for the team and on a personal level is to constantly ask questions; of yourself and others…

Read Andrew Bereza’s blog, entitled: Mental strength in the workplace, here