What is genius leadership? Jonas Friberg is a co-founder and an ex-corporate leader, facilitator at professional leadership networks, where he met more than 1500 leaders, and find what they managed to do to be successful. He picked 25 who inspired him most from different backgrounds leading different teams, to interview them and figure out what are the common denominators for those leaders and why do people want to follow them. In our conversation for the Genius Leadership podcast, Jonas and I share some data, experience, and how it confirms Jonas’ findings from the interviews.
To Jonas, a leader is the one going first, not the one knowing all the things or knowing how everything should be. It’s someone who has a strong will of achieving something but really wants people to follow. And really wants to learn from others. A leader is someone with empathy, curiosity, and strong will. And it’s always important to remember that leaders are humans, and great leaders lead by example.
From my conversations with many managers, their challenges often come from struggling to connect high-level ideas about guiding others to day-to-day activities. That is why we have focused on connecting those two levels in our conversation.
Know the operations of your business
You can’t be a strategic leader if you don’t know the business you are responsible for. You will never be able to fully contribute because you won’t understand the process.
How do you as a leader ensure to know what is happening daily? Be present. Make sure that you find a way to be present, to get the feeling of what’s happening in the different parts of the organization today. Visit the manufacturing floor, talk to your shop managers, use your product, create a full customer journey and follow it yourself, to be able to know the glitches and flaws of the system. And, if while reading this you think “Yeah, but I’m sitting in the meetings all day long”, remember: it’s your choice. You might need to have those 20 seconds of bravery to wipe off your calendar and make your priorities clear to yourself and the others. To succeed, a cultural change needs to start from the top – yourself. If the leadership team shows how to behave, the rest of the company will follow. You also need to be self-aware that you might not have the clearest view of how to do things, and that the rest of the team can help. You solve problems in groups.
Being present – online?
In the pandemic, with most of us working remotely, a question arises: how can leaders be practically present at this day-to-day level?
The answer seems super simple but very true: being flexible. You have to be creative, Jonas says, let yourself be touched by the things that happen, but don’t get emotionally attached. Be curious, be interested and this will attract people to you if you reach out to them. Set up 1:1 check-ins with your direct reports to see how they are doing and what support they need. It can be 15 minutes online, or a walk in the park – whatever is possible in a safe way. Remember: the best leaders are the ones whose presence is continuously felt, and it is in your power to make sure it happens.
Ensure that your employees have a chance of socializing with each other. One of the ways to do so is to set up a virtual water cooler space – a Zoom / Meets/ etc meeting that can be for 20 minutes daily, and people are free to drop in whenever during that time. Encourage people to grab a cup of coffee and show up, or tune in while taking a walk around the block, and just have a casual chat with colleagues, to keep that sense of belonging.
Adjust the speed and way of working
Some leaders are great at making quick decisions, others – at making well-weighted ones. Great leaders know when to apply one of these approaches or another. Make sure that you take the right time to make a decision, don’t rush into making decisions if it is not necessary, yet don’t wait for too long if the situation is pressing. It is important to show your employees that you don’t know all the answers but you are always aware of your vision, and that drives your operations every day.
One more important dimension is adjustments or the ways you work. Take this forced disruption as a chance to reevaluate the ways you hold meetings, communicate with each other, run projects, etc. What has been annoying, not working efficiently, creating tensions? The pandemic is a chance to wipe those things off and redo them.
If you are interested in more practical examples on how to know your business inside out, be present for your people – even online, and create flexibility that our modern world requires, tune into the Genius Leadership podcast episode wherever you listen to the shows.