My introduction to leadership came at the age of 16. As part of my Venture Scout activities I helped out with the 1st Glen Lusset cub scouts. This involved running activities for 7-10 year old boys, including teaching them how to start fires. I then went to university and became a Territorial Army Officer Cadet (at 17 and a half). My first formal leadership training was from the British Army. This training was backed up with practical experience, leading scouts and soldiers (similar outlooks, soldiers are older and have guns). This strongly shaped my leadership values.
Civil Service Leadership
I joined the civil service from university (after a six month interlude where I worked as a volunteer instructor at an outdoor activity centre in the Scottish Highlands). I became part of the Department of the Environment’s Management Development Programme. Over three years I did about 100 days of taught management training through the Civil Service College (as it then was). These days that would probably count towards an MBA. Back then it was about ensuring a firm grounding in management and leadership theory as well as the workings of government. This gave me different perspectives on leading, and developed my leadership values further.
My civil service career has encompassed a wide range of posts and departments/agencies. I’ve spent about half my career in policy/strategy roles in central departments. There has been a significant thread covering finance or IT through some of those roles. I have also done project management, internal consultancy, Communications, HR, Operations and analysis. From a leadership perspective I had three years leading over 300 people in a passport office. Most recently I have been working as a Digital Architect and Assistant Director in a Business Design Authority. This involves working out what the organisation should do and then inspiring others to deliver it. Every post has added something to my leadership values, or in some cases clarified my thinking.
Twenty five years on from my first experience of leadership I have distilled my leadership values down to a handful of guidelines for the wise:
Always be clear about the outcomes you want to achieve, and make sure your team know what the objective is;
If you lead people where they want to go then they develop the habit of following, which is when you can take them new places;
Never delegate stuff you wouldn’t be happy to do yourself;
Look after your team, and be seen by them to be looking after them;
Understand individual motivations, and show each individual how they can achieve that if they deliver the outcomes you need;
Be flexible in your approach, do what works in the situation you are in and stay focused on the outcome you need;
Above all, be human.
What about you? Leave a comment.
I’m keen to hear other bits of sage advice for leaders. What are your leadership values, or what leadership values would you like to see in leaders?