Leaders, leading leaders – there is definitely an easier way of saying that, but alliteration is more fun! We're talking about Senior Leadership (see, not as fun!) and the vital role experienced Senior Leaders play in developing their nuclear team so that no matter how far down the directing line an employee falls, they are also receiving quality leadership.
It's one thing to lead your direct reports, and it's another thing to lead your team who have teams of their own. The stakes of effective Senior Leadership required at this level are crucial in setting company wide expectations and determine everything from an organisation's culture to its financial success, all the way to the psychological safety of its people.
Let's break down the three core skills required in a Senior Leader and the impact this has at an organisation level.
We love a self-aware partner, self-aware friend, and a self-aware parent (oh, those generational divides!), and this is no exception when it comes to our Leaders at work. Self-awareness is such an integral skill to master as a Senior Leader for a couple of reasons:
Relatability! Just like us mere mortals, it's nice to see the humanistic traits that come along with self-awareness. When Senior Leaders display approachability and effective communication skills, they don't seem so "out of touch" with the realities of the day-in and day-out workings of the business.
Shared self-awareness – although self-awareness is a skill, it doesn't come as naturally to some. Senior leaders must lead by example and help their Team Leaders build and flex their self-awareness muscles to manage their teams effectively.
Senior Leaders must have a continuous learning mindset and avoid complacency. There is no self-awareness in being a "know it all", or adopting a "my way or the highway" mentality. The act of agility is key to component to self-awareness!
Nothing is worse than receiving a one-word reply or being stood up at a meeting with no warning. And the killer; waking up on your day off to a passive-aggressive, novel of an email highlighting everything wrong with a project you've been working on for three weeks in which you have previously received no feedback. Senior Leaders are usually the prime suspect for these crimes, specifically the one-word replies that doesn't answer your question and the no-shows. And often they are forgiven because they are very busy, very important people, right...
Wrong. Yes, they are busy, and yes, they are important. But everyone is busy, and everyone is important – therefore, VALUING everyone's time is an essential skill (and links back to that self-awareness piece!).
Senior Leaders need to use practical communication skills to show up for their team and avoid setting a bad example for their team leaders that will cause a flow-on effect of disgruntled behaviours further down the chain.
Show up to meetings - and if you cannot attend, let them know!
Read the entire email and respond to all points. It can be concise, but one word and even one liners can come across as brash and often leave the recipient with more questions than answers. Therefore, in your attempt to save time, we are now wasting time, as the poor Team Assistant is trying to figure out if you approved the invoice or the meeting with Mary on Friday – cue the "as per my last email"
Check-in with your team. Ask for progress updates, give feedback when requested, and be active in the process, even if it is just a set of eyes to encourage and advise. Don't wait until the house is painted blue to turn around and say you don't like the colour blue!
Senior Leaders have such power and influence, and when it's managed in a way to encourage and inspire, this influence can have a significant impact on the entire culture of an organisation.
Senior Leaders should encourage their team leaders to stretch and grow and provide a safe environment for development and learning. Influence can be expressed in many ways. For example, you can inspire others by sharing personal mistakes and how they were overcome, encouraging people to be their unique selves, and stepping outside of the box to bring something new to the table.
When influence is used for good, Senior Leaders can shape their team into the best leaders they can be, offering employees a strong leadership force who are open, self-aware, encouraging, communicative, and approachable.
As humans, we find safety in connection. That is why we can feel detached from the elusive Executive Team sitting at the top, especially in larger companies. But, when companies invest in experienced Senior Leaders, they invest in their people. Furthermore, when leaders throughout the hierarchy of a business are encouraged and nurtured in their capabilities to lead, they become the bridge connecting the bottom to the top - and everyone wins.