How to be the leader that people remember for the right reasons

I had some average leaders as I was climbing the ladder of corporate success. They are now called ‘old school leaders.’ And I can remember them clearly, and what they said, and how they said it. I went into leadership coaching to see if I could help leaders like them to be better at leading humans. So that teams everywhere didn’t have the have the same experience that I had. 

Sometimes, though, I have to reflect and remember that there have been some great leaders along the way, too. And I have learnt a heap from them too. Particularly, if you seen my origin story video, where I talk through an incident that occurred on a power station on May 21, 2021. Where the leaders stepped up and stepped into leadership under pressure. In a way that was all about control, care factor and courage. 

As well as that experience, at the start of our leadership training sessions, I used to take our attendees on a journey of thinking about their worst ever leader. With the purpose of that session being to remember what it feels like when we are exposed to poor leadership. And don’t be a leader that is remembered for that reason. 

We have changed that up now, because such a negative session (and it was negative) took the emotions in the wrong direction and I had to spend the next two days turning it around. Now, we talk about our favourite leaders of all time, and what they did that made them our favourite leaders. And we put all those notes on a whiteboard. We essentially write the playbook for what great leadership looks like from a very personal experience. A much more positive session, sure. 

Eventually, the focus turns to me, and the group asks me who my favourite leader has been, and why! 

So, I share my experience, and I am very specific why this person was my favourite leader. Here is my contribution to that session. 

1. My favourite leader was patient and took a coaching approach 

I worked for a year on a major commissioning project. A major plant expansion had been completed by a major construction company, and I was working with the owner’s team on the commissioning element of the construction project. I was in a tough role (project controls), it was detail, detail, detail. Schedules, and numbers. Facts and figure. Progress and process. Not skills that I necessarily had at the time (I am high (I) influence on my DISC profile, and very low (C) conscientious). I’m not a detailed person.  

Within a year, I had turned that around. For that year, I learnt to do data. I learnt to do numbers. With my leader’s help. 

I needed a significant amount of support and coaching. Once I got the hang of it, things got better. And at the end of the year, we started doing planning workshops, that I could facilitate. Winner. Being in front of humans. Way more fun. 

But I will never forget, and be forever grateful, to that leader for the patience that he showed when he knew that detail was not a strong point of mine. I am sure it was, but nothing ever seemed too much trouble, he always had time for me, and always spoke in a way that was encouraging not demeaning. I appreciated that. 

For example, one thing that I remember clearly was the day that that leader asked for a rewrite of the commissioning plan… in an hour… with a heap of changes. I freaked out. He was patient. He said something like: 

“I know what I have asked for is one or more days work. But I have to present something to my leader in an hour – so I need your best effort for an hour – with complete focus. I gave you an hour, and I need a great hour. Then we can finish it off.” So, I went nuts for an hour, and nailed as much as I could. Which wasn’t much but was enough.  

After that the coaching started, and he helped me through the document rewrite, in a coaching way. 

It was like that leader knew how to work under pressure. It seemed to come naturally, though I feel like this might have been learnt behaviour. Regardless, it was an amazing skill. Patience and coaching. 

2. My favourite leader was an introvert in an extrovert’s role 

This was a revelation for me at that time. There was a period in my life where I was convinced that only extroverts made good leaders. How wrong I was.  

Because this leader was such a coach for me, I was able to get an insight into this leader’s personality. And I was able to see the quiet times, not just the times that he was in front other others. As an example, that leader would go from being in front of his team, looking like an extrovert, to his office, slouched in his chair recovering from all the people interactions. 

He explained that he was highly introverted, and that doing people work was a huge energy drainer for him. He needed time alone to get his energy back, and recharge, before going an doing it all again. For the rest of the day. 

It was like that leader had this complete understanding of self and was totally aware of his strengths and weaknesses. He knew when how to set up and step into people interactions, even when he didn’t feel like it was his skill set.  Interestingly, if you asked people about this leader, they would have thought he was very extroverted. An introvert in an extrovert’s role. 

3. My favourite leader actually cared about people 

This is an interesting point, because there are leaders who try to care, but struggle to. There are leaders who are just very clear on the fact that they don’t care as much about people as they do about the process or the output.   

One day, I got a call to say my son had been rushed to hospital after falling off his skateboard and bashing his head on the bitumen. He was wearing a helmet, thankfully, but I didn’t know that until I got to the hospital.  

This leader could not do enough to support and look after me that day, and that week. Time off was not an issue, leaving quickly was fine, and he gave me a lift around town to pick up my car from site and get my son from hospital to home. It was next level care. And it was appreciated.  

It was like that leader knew how to care. And it didn’t seem like any effort at all. It seemed to be important to that leader. To care for people. 

There you have it, that is the story of my favourite leader! 

FYI, it is a much better way to start a session, asking about people’s favourite leader, not their worst. And it is nice to be able to share the above reflections with my attendees! 

And fun fact, I remember that leader for all the right reasons! 

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About Anton

Anton has dedicated his working life to helping leaders to upgrade their mindset, upskill their leadership, and uplift their teams! With a focus on helps leaders to better lead under pressure. Anton is an entrepreneur, speaker, consultant, bestselling author and founder of The Guinea Group. Over the past 19 years, Anton has worked with over 175+ global organisations, he has inspired workplace leadership, safety, and cultural change. He’s achieved this by combining his corporate expertise, education (Bachelor of HR and Psychology), and infectious energy levels.
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