10 things I learned about leadership

Kairen Harris
August 16, 2017

I sometimes get asked (usually by other women) to share with them lessons I have learned from holding a general manager position and being a senior HR leader.  These are the key principles that have guided me:

1. Be transparent and consistent about your core principles and values

People want to know the yard sticks you will use to assess situations and assess their contribution and see that you hold yourself accountable to these measures in everything you do.

2. Be genuine

We have all seen the impact in politics of leaders trying to be the person they believe others expect. People will accept flaws, but not a phoney.  Be authentic in your relationships.

3. Have a clear purpose

Take the time to consider what you need the team to achieve and why this will make a positive difference, including for them. Make sure you clearly articulate this and celebrate the steps taken towards achieving the person.  Note to some of our political leaders – keeping the seat warm is not a purpose!

4. Know yourself (and especially what you are not good at)

Leverage people in the team with passion and skill in those areas. You don’t need to know everything and be good at everything to lead effectively. That sounds obvious but it took me a while to wake up to that. Make it easy for staff to give you honest feedback. Especially ask those who will be critical. Not always comfortable, but in the end vital.

5. Treat everyone fairly, but that doesn’t mean treating everyone the same.

Your teams will have people with different styles, skills, situations and needs. Your job as leader is to understand that and then adapt your support and coaching to fit the individuals. As a new leader it is tempting to treat people in the way you like to be treated. That isn’t necessarily what they want!

6. Build effective and respectful teams

Your job is help every team member to be the best they can be, but crucially to create a sum that is more than the parts. Remember this when recruiting. When people really value and leverage the diversity in the team, and especially feel commitment and care for their colleagues, great things can happen.

7. Avoid doing other people’s job for them

You probably got the top job because you are really effective in the field you work in, and are passionate about it. Learning to let people figure out their own way to solve problems can be difficult. Women especially are acculturated to ‘do’ stuff not watch others do it, and can struggle with not ‘joining in’ aka interfering!

8. Be clear about what outcomes are needed and when

As a woman, I learned oblique way of making requests (not to be demanding), often posing tasks as questions or invitations. Male subordinates will not necessarily understand instructions that are posed in that manner.

9. Be humble

When you wake up in the morning and wonder whether you are up to the job, believe that it isn’t just you. Other leaders also doubt themselves. A dose of genuine humility however is a valuable leadership attribute. It leads to listening, which is both engaging and the route to better decision making.

10. Keep your sense of humour

Work consumes most of your life and it should be fun!

About Kairen Harris

Kairen HarrisKairen Harris is an Associate Director at Worklogic, She brings an impressive set of HR skills and experience to Worklogic, obtained from an extensive, international HR career.  Prior to joining Worklogic, Kairen was HR General Manager for Shell in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific islands, responsible for delivering the workplace policies, processes and culture that would best promote values of gender equity, inclusion and respect for people.

For a free, confidential discussion on creating a culture that doesn’t tolerate bad behaviour at your workplace, please contact Kairen via email or give her a call on (03) 9981 6500.

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