What can we learn from our leaders?

One of my takes on leadership is that we don’t spend enough time reflecting on the leaders that we have had in the past (or present) and learning from them. We have all had (or have) outstanding leaders, and some not so great. And they can all teach us something. Whether it is what to do more of, or what to do less of.  

There is a great stoic quote that says: “As long as you live, keep learning how to live” (Credit: Seneca). 

In 2022, this quote could read: “As long as you lead, keep learning how to lead”. 

And one of the ways that we can keep learning is to reflect, recognise, and replace. Reflect on what good leaders do. Recognise what you would not do as a leader. Replace any strategies with new ones and try new things.  

There are three questions that you can use, to help you with this process: 

1. What have my favourite leaders done well?  
Through reflection! 

This is a question that I ask at the start of our leadership programs. We fill the whiteboard with the best traits of our favourite leaders. We even use first names, to make it personal. Some of the time, mums and dads or grandparents make the list, which is beautiful, too. 

In that half hour session, we get such a great vibe going, and we reflect on why our favourite leaders had such an impact on us, and how they did that. Then more specifically, how we felt and how we responded to those leaders. Integrity always comes up, as do a range of other positive values, and behaviour-based, adjectives. That session is such a positive way to start two days of training. 

And that exercise is designed to provide an overview of the traits of the best leaders we have all experienced. At times, it is a sports star, or a movie star whose name is mentioned, but at the end of that discussion, we have a list of traits that we could lean into. And maybe one day when we do that exercise, your name makes the list, because of how you lead others. 

Spend a moment or two, now, reflecting on the best leaders you have experienced, and what made them so outstanding. And reflect on what you could do differently. 

2. What have my not so favourite leaders done poorly?  
Through recognition! 

Would you believe that we used to ask this question at the start of our leadership programs (before I changed it to the one above). I changed it up when I recognised what a negative spin it put on the program and on the workshop.  

Yes, everyone has a story of a poor leader. Yes, some of these stories are decades old. And yes, this is what not to do, and the message is that is you want to be a good leader… don’t do these things… it still put the attendees in a negative emotional state.  

And that is what happens when we experience poor leadership. And instead of just saying that we feel crappy, or hurt, or not valued, we need to recognise what the behaviour was that made us feel that way, so that we can make sure we don’t repeat it in our leadership.  

Specifically, recognise what it was that the leader did when they had the worst impact on your emotional state. It is generally because they were under pressure, they had no people skills, or they were only worried about themselves, and not the team (or some variation of these three).  

Spend a moment or two, now, reflecting on the worst leaders you have experienced, and what made them so memorable. And recognise what you would never do as a leader, based on your experience.

3. What would (insert name here) do in this situation?  
Through replacement! 

Whether it is your favourite leader, someone you aspire to be like, or even your leadership coach ? – pick someone that does well in the tough situations that you might encounter. Whether it is Leading Under Pressure or building rapport with people skills. And then, when you are faced with the same difficult situation, ask yourself the question, what would that person do now? 

This is one of the best tools I have learnt over time. I have names like Tony Robbins for my speaking work. Or Richard Branson as a leader. And of course, people closer to home and people I know well. With this question, I find I can replace limiting beliefs, and limiting behaviours very quickly. It helps me take a new approach to the situation I am facing. It makes me think differently and think about what someone else would do in this situation. Someone who is getting better results that I am in that area! 

Spend a moment or two, now, thinking about what thinking or behaviour you might like to replace, in order to get a better result in a specific area of your life or leadership. 

Would love to hear your comments on this. Do these three questions resonate with you? 

And could you please do me a favour, and share this with leaders everywhere? This is an important topic for leaders. 

And of course, please click the image below if you’d like to chat about what leadership means to you.

If you would like to learn more about Anton or The Guinea Group, please click hereto book into Anton’s calendar, to:

UPGRADE your Mindset
UPSKILL your Leadership
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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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