Let's Talk Leadership - People First Leadership
Let’s get one thing clear. No-one is born to be a leader.
Every person’s brain has biases. Biases inhibit leaders to do their job effectively. The result of a leader who is unaware of how their brain blinds them, is a bad leader in the eyes of their team. We need to close the gap from bad leaders to good.
Self-awareness and valuable feedback are KEY to do that.
We need to re-wire leaders by showing them how their brains contradict what great leadership is all about. Leadership is a selfless act. But the brain is selfish. So, by raising the awareness of this fact and training leaders how to counter their brain, we build people-first leaders for a better culture.
Why? Because culture is a mirror of leadership. You want a great culture. You need great leaders.
Self-Awareness is Needed to be a Great Leader
To be a great leader, you must be people-first.
You have got to put your people first, and the BIGGEST hurdle to putting people first is self-awareness.
“95% of us think they are self-aware and only 10 to 15% actually are.”
- Tasha Eurich
We have seen that usually there is a huge gap between what someone thinks of themselves (their identity) in comparison to what other people think of them (their reputation).
This gap must be closed to prevent ineffective leadership. The wider the gap, the higher the cost to you and the business.
Look in the mirror and give yourself an honest assessment of your leadership skills. Where are your strengths? Where are your weaknesses? Do you think your team would agree with your answers?
As leaders, we should dedicate time to assess who we want to be as a leader and what we want to accomplish through the relationships we develop with our people. This way, this helps us communicate more effectively, confidently, and clearly.
Why Our Brains Are Naturally Selfish
Our brain is a survival machine. Its primary purpose is to keep you alive. So, to re-wire leaders to be people-first, they have to know they need to fight 165 biases in the brain. Sound’s easy, right?
No one talks about this apart from us at DX Learning. We have developed and refined programs designed to help you take your sub-conscious blinkers off, uncover your natural bad habits, and become more self-aware.
Once that’s done, you’re on track to being the great leader you aspire to be.
Returning to the statistic by Tasha Eurich, 95% of you think you’re the best thing since sliced bread. Yes, we’re sure you’re great, but no-one is perfect and your leadership most likely isn’t either.
It takes vulnerability to own our leadership mishaps and share them with others. It's a learned skill that can be honed over time.
“Leaders. You are not perfect. You’re never going to be perfect. Be comfortable with that. Strive to get better every day and be OK with your flaws.”
A Recommended Leadership Style: A Servant Leader
Leadership is about how you think and how you behave. To put people first means you must behave selflessly. A typical leadership style that demonstrates this is a servant leader.
A servant leader is a leadership style that focuses on the growth and well-being of people and communities.
Frequently, people point to Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and Mother Theresa as examples. But this style is more prevalent in modern workplaces.
“When people are placed first, they will provide the highest possible service, and profits will follow”.
- Fred Smith, Founder, and CEO of FedEx
How to be a Servant Leader? Master the Art of Emotional Intelligence
- Self-awareness– Knowing yourself
- Self-regulate – Knowing how your brains works
- Have empathy – Meeting people where they are at without judgment
- Show basic interpersonal human skills – CARE-ing for your team
To put people first you first got to realize that you're most likely not putting your people first, hence the self-awareness piece. Most of us usually aren’t good at being naturally selfless because our brains aren’t wired this way. But it’s okay, this is something anyone can learn.
The Importance of Self-Awareness
Did you know an unaware executive can cost a business up to $50 million per year? (Gartner)
Lack of self-awareness of leadership blind spots has a detrimental impact across teams and performance.
To help leaders uncover their blind spots, natural bad habits and biases, psychological safety is KEY. A leader’s team needs to be able to feel like they can safely speak up about what’s working, and what’s not working in the workplace. You need this to see a positive change.
So, as a leader you should be providing deliberate opportunities for your team to talk and for you to listen to their needs. To really understand what’s missing for them to be a more successful and happier team. Give them a strong voice where they can talk to you about what’s important to them.
Basically, how can you expect to make a positive impact on your employees and teams as a leader, if you don’t even know how to? They have the keys to improvement.
“Self-awareness is a game changer for any leader. Understanding who you are under pressure and how those impacts others can change the way you operate in any situation.”
- DX Learning Client, Dawn DeCarlo from TEKsystems
An example of this would be Amazon. Protests were staged at Amazon buildings in the UK, US, and Europe. The protests were organized by an international coalition of unions, equality, and environmental groups named "Make Amazon Pay”.
The movement was founded to demand that Amazon make changes to its work culture. This included increased pay, an end to employee surveillance and union engagement.
Amazon represented a clear example of a poor work culture with poor leadership.
There was no room for autonomy for their employees. They were constantly scrutinized under strict surveillance throughout their working day. There was no sense of community, trust, or value.
There had been talk of Amazon not showing appreciation to their employees for a long time, and a reaction from the company’s workforce seemed to be the last resort reaction.
It really should never take a protest to make a positive change for your employees. But that’s what happened.
“If you steal autonomy every day, you will have no-one left.”
For 30 years or more, workers have had to endure the fact that “creating shareholder value” and “the drive for results” is the focus of many of our businesses, and that their values were just writing on the wall. The saying goes:
“We’re making money. Why does it matter?”
The modern workplace is shifting this cultural norm. Money isn’t the driver for happy people, it’s the culture, it’s the values, and it’s the appreciation and respect.
Culture is NOT ping pong tables, free beer, and working from home a few days a week. Culture is a mirror of leadership. So, leaders have got to step up and demonstrate core behaviors to match up to what the people of the company are looking for within their day-to-day culture. It’s about value alignment. Do the values that your leaders demonstrate day in day out, match the values of the people that come to work?
The Importance of Psychological Safety
The Dunning Kruger effect is very relevant to this conversation.
“The Dunning-Kruger effect, is a cognitive bias whereby people with limited knowledge or competence in a given intellectual or social domain greatly overestimate their own knowledge or competence in that domain relative to objective criteria or to the performance of their peers or of people in general.”
In summary, The Dunning-Kruger effect demonstrates that our brain’s natural wiring causes leadership blind spots. These affect the performance for others. To be a good leader, you must be aware of these blind spots to be able to make that positive difference.
At DX Learning we offer a variety of leadership training programs to help you re-model and renovate how you lead in alignment to the modern demands of the workplace. This way you benefit those you lead and achieve the results you want.
“Low levels of psychological safety can create a culture of silence”
- Amy C. Edmondson
The Impact of a Lack of Psychological Safety
“If an employee feels their voice matters, they are 4.6 times more likely to deliver their best work.”
If you don't have a team that wants to speak up, or feels like they can speak up, you are in a dangerous place.
It’s difficult to create a workplace worth working for when you can’t understand what your team are really thinking or feeling, what they need from you as a leader, or what they look for in a good company culture.
The result? Your team are most likely looking or being open to other job opportunities.
What Can You Do as a Leader to Provide Psychological Safety?
- Be transparent and vulnerable.
- Be selfless.
- Demonstrate empathy.
- Have constant non-work conversations.
- Reflect. React.
- Provide opportunities for people to speak up by ensuring you speak last.
What Problems did we Face at DX Learning?
If you read our previous article, “Bringing it Home”, you’ll find out we went through a phase where we struggled at DX Learning with having a good company culture where our people wanted to stay.
People-first leadership wasn’t prioritized. Results were #1.
The cultural underpin of what great looks like is being able to give and receive constructive feedback.
“Great leaders say thank you for feedback. Even if they don’t agree with it.”
We never had the north star of what great looks like. I expected everyone to be like me. It’s a place you never want to be in as a leader.
The responsibility of all companies and leaders is to:
- Establish a great culture through great leadership.
- Set core company values and behaviors in alignment to that great culture.
- Demonstrate human centric leadership. Put people first.
- Regularly provide opportunities for feedback and provide a safe space for that feedback.
To re-affirm. No-one was born to be a leader.
It’s amazing if you know you could improve as a leader, because SELF-AWARENESS is where is starts.
Leadership is an art form that you learn, and you only get better by allowing feedback.
No-one was born to give clarity,
No-one was born to give autonomy,
No-one was born to build relationships,
No-one was born to be equitable.
It’s all down to your brain wanting to keep you alive and act selfishly, we need it to learn how to be selfless to create a company culture worth working for.
At DX Learning, we can help you. Get in touch.
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