Believe it or not our business name Ryan Gately has been a constant source of amusement for my team and I over the years. Mostly thanks to the endless stream of phone calls we’ve received that have started with “Can I please speak to Ryan” – to which we typically say, “Can I ask what it’s regarding” – our favourite response is “it’s a personal call”. When we named our new business my former partner and I had no idea so many people would assume Ryan Gately is a man. I’ve even had a number of people ask me what its like working for my husband.
Today’s blog is a guest post from none other than the real Ryan in Ryan Gately – Lisa Ryan. Based in the US Lisa is the HR Business partner for Aviva Investors North America. Inspired by listening to my recent radio interview on 2GB, Lisa shares hers views on leadership.
I have listened to Karen’s recent radio interview with Glenn Wheeler on 2GB regarding leadership several times now. I have even forwarded the link to several of my US based colleagues urging them to listen to it. There is enough written about leadership to fill libraries in several large cities, but that 4 minute radio clip between Karen and Glenn summed up what is really important when considering ‘what is leadership’? If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to hear the interview you can find it on the media page of Karen’s website. http://www.karengately.com.au/index.php/in-the-media
After spending 15 years in a global financial services company, and during my time working with Karen in her consulting business, I have met and worked with more senior executives than I ever thought possible. Amongst them, are leaders that have covered the spectrum from what I would consider ‘fantastic’ to ‘terrible’. I have worked with executives who are able to instill such loyalty and commitment from their employees that they will, literally, follow them anywhere. On the other hand, I have worked with executives whose employees spend their time thinking of ways they would torture/kill/maim them, only in their dreams, of course.
I have always struggled to articulate exactly what is it that makes a leader ‘good’ or even ‘excellent’? Is it charisma? Are some born to lead and others born to follow? Do they have an MBA from an Ivy League college? Are they extroverted, highly intelligent, and good
looking? In my experience, maybe they have one or two of the aforementioned qualities, but then so do the really ‘bad’ leaders.
As Karen explained, a key factor of successful leadership is the ability to instill confidence in others (note: not that they themselves are confident), and this must be sustained over time. To instill confidence in others, leaders must be able to lay a foundation of trust and respect with their employees. Confidence – trust – respect. Notice that these three words do not include ‘charisma’, ‘extroversion’, ‘genius intellect’ or ‘attractive’.
Some of the most successful leaders I have known are by nature introverted, lacking charisma, smart but not Einstein smart, but, they are also honest, have high integrity, ‘walk the talk’, and trust their employees to do their jobs. In contrast, the very worst executives (aka ‘Senior Leadership’ in many organizations) do not trust or respect their own staff, they try to ‘lead’ by control and creating fear and paranoia in their staff. Sometimes, on the surface, these people are very charismatic, and almost always excellent at ‘managing up’.
This style of ‘leadership’ inevitably fails – it can take time, but it is never a sustainable approach. To be a successful leader, whether of a small team or an entire organization, you must ‘walk the talk’, be honest and show integrity in all that you do, trust and respect the people you work with, an in turn this will engender trust and respect right back. Over the short, mid and longer term, deliver these qualities over and over again, and you will gain people’s confidence. Then and only then, can you truly be considered a ‘Leader’.