What do leaders do?

I was on the spot today for an hour or so today with a group of managers from across Angus Council and Dundee City Council as part of our joint Leadership development programme. This is a summary of some of what I said in answer to the question above.

Leaders aren’t born, or made – they come to be. Some skills and attitudes come from our upbringing, but more come from the experience of leaders we all acquire, observing others and developing ourselves and reflecting on those experiences. And then there is conscious and unconscious self-development. “I didn’t set out to be a leader – I became one”.

Reflecting on what strategic leaders in our organisation do I emphasised the communication, time and again, of a vision for the future of the council, supplemented with messages about why we are going there, and how we will do it.

If you do only one thing well, this is the one.

The leader scans the horizon, anticipates what’s coming next and prepares the organisation for it. The leader’s mind is never closed to new ideas.  The leader thinks beyond tomorrow to the day after that, and the day after that – which is why leaders sometimes say no. The long view requires them to.

The leader recognises the talent of others and helps them apply it to best effect. Credit accrues to the organisation, not to the leader.

And sometimes, in amongst the future scanning, reflection and facilitation of others, sometimes you just have to lead. Make a decision and ask that others act on it. That need will arise from time to time and we fail our organisation and our colleagues if we dodge that bullet.

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