Getting the Basics of Leadership Right

What does good leadership look like? The most basic leadership skills start with you - you must be organised, thoughtful, self-disciplined and willing to lead by example.

Leadership succeeds when it shows others how to grow and push for success. Your team should look at you and think, “If they can do it, I can, too."

Getting the Basics of Leadership Right.

Recent work by Gallup identified four domains or areas of leadership strength - executing, influencing, relationship building and strategic thinking.

Each member of a team has their own unique strengths; the most successful teams possess a wide range of skills and abilities and have a particularly high representation of these four domains in their team.

You may not be so well rounded as the leader, but your team certainly should be.

There are many different styles of leadership and although each leader’s approach to the end goal may be different, they all get there in the end.

You don’t have to be a carbon copy of a leader you admire and respect - you simply need to know your own strengths and preferences and then utilise the team’s skills to fill in the gaps.

What do leaders do that makes a difference? While you discover your strengths, what practical steps can you take in the meantime?

Here are four suggestions:


Brief your team using ‘SMEAC’ – a briefing tool used by the armed forces to give clear direction and check understanding.

Good leaders always brief even the simplest of procedures like this:

Situation or Background (what is the current situation?).
Mission or Objectives (what do you need to do?).
Execution or Implementation (how will we do it? Not to be confused with Mission).
Any questions (what don’t we know?).
Check understanding (ask them questions by using the three Ps – Pose the question, Pause to give them time to think about the answer, Pounce and ask someone the question).

It is easier to change direction once you have got going, so get started.


Leaders take action and make decisions. Sir John Harvey-Jones MBE {Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Navy, then Chairman of Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI)} believed in ‘speed rather than direction’, on the assumption that ‘once travelling, a company can veer and tack towards the ultimate objective’.

It is easier to change direction once you have got going, so get started.


As a leader you have to keep in mind the bigger picture to make sure everyone stays focused on the end results.

It is easy to become distracted with detail and allow it to detract from your purpose.

There is comfort in the accuracy of the details, but your role as a leader is to maintain focus on the bigger picture and the required outcome.


A leader needs to motivate their team, even in the face of adversity, to persuade them to keep going.

Everyone needs encouragement - ask yourself ‘what can I say that will be encouraging?’

Insight from Leaders

These are their top tips:

1. Set a deadline for your project. People work more effectively if they know there’s a point of accountability coming up.

2. Leadership is not a ‘tick box’ management list of things to go through.

3. Network, network, network!

4. Stick your head above the parapet and be seen.

5. You must be able to take all kinds of feedback, so you must be reachable and receptive.

6. Perfect planning is impossible. Drive for results by taking action.

7. Make a decision and start. Stop meeting about it and just start.

8. Just ask. There is always a budget, always more resource and sometimes I can’t give it away as no-one has asked!

9. Lead by example and trust your colleagues. You cannot control and manage everything, and they need to learn leadership skills, too.

10. Write ‘thank you’ letters (a forgotten art) – people like the recognition.

Leadership is not about one particular style or an approach to leading others.

Every situation is different and so are the people involved.

Teams need and appreciate good leadership, but you have to start somewhere, so perhaps volunteer for a role that is slightly less critical to begin with in order to develop your leadership skills.

Good luck!


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