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How I Define Leadership

Is leadership all about being bossy and assigning deadlines? Or is it more about being in the limelight? To me, leadership is the most vital portion of team management.

While running the marketing scene of the leading English daily of the country, I sometimes feel I should have been more empathic towards my team members. However, I also believe that the potential CMOs and department heads may find these five approaches of team management effective. I still believe I have not been able to fully live up to these five points, but I consider leadership a constant work in progress.

Lead them by example

The role of a leader should not be limited to goal setting and delegation only but instead, the leader should go first. The best way to inspire the team is by being actively visible. Accompany team members while handling tough stakeholders. When the team members get first-hand experience from their leaders, they become more confident. If a CMO spends a day each week with the customer service center team and handles customer queries he/she is not only going to add value to the entire service design but will gain the respect of his/her team members. There were many instances where I personally handled critical clients of my team members through visiting them, making phone calls, and so on.

Listen to them with empathy

We are living in a digital era where we are moving at a faster pace than ever before. The workplace can be defined with many heavy corporate jargons like KPI (Key Performance Indicator), Ownership, Growth, Digitalization, Passion, Creativity, Innovation, and so on. In the midst of this 10X growth story, we sometimes forget that we are human beings. We forget that we have emotions and that emotions can be triggered by many reasons such as family issues, mental state, and so on. As a leader, it is important to recognize this fact and act on this. A conversation over a cup of coffee can suffice where the leader will listen to his/her team members with the utmost level of empathy. I try to spend time with my team members during lunch hours and trust me, it helps me get to know them better. To add to that, when they know you're making efforts to listen to them, well, you know the rest of the sentence.

Let them celebrate failure

A leader must nurture a culture that will let his/her team members be curious. A curious team is more likely to be experimentative. And not every experiment is going to be a success. Failure happens. But the most successful leaders let their team members celebrate that failure. But definitely, the celebration should be in the form of learnings or takeaways from those failures. The team members should be encouraged more to experiment, take risks, and try new things. There were few instances where some of our project ideas did not come through. I knew those plans were designed with utmost passion. So, I took my team out for dinner not to just celebrate that failure but to discuss how we can win next time.

Let them be fearless

A culture of fear is a great enemy to nurturing creativity and this can cause great harm to the potential of each individual talent. A great leader lets their team members express their opinions or feedback fearlessly. A fear-based culture may sometimes help to get the business results but it never helps the organization to achieve its value-driven purpose. A leader should create a culture where team members can challenge their line managers/department heads and department heads should have the mindsets to accept. A leader should never take the feedback personally, rather he or she should accept and act on those. This fearless culture will not only be injecting positive energy across the team but also will influence the bottom-line results of the company as well. I sometimes seek feedback from some of my teammates and peer groups. When they find it ok to give me feedback (in any form) they become more expressive. The more expressive they become the more self-aware I become.

Cover them with Trust

While attending board meetings and presenting in front of the board members there were a few occasions where I stumbled. But the amazing part was every time I stumbled, I got the helping hand of my boss who came forward and answered on my behalf. Whether it’s a cross-functional meeting or an external meeting, it's important to stand by your team members when they are in trouble.

In case you're lost in the ocean of leadership dialogues I've been talking about in the above paragraphs, don't worry, I'll summarize it for you. When you're working with leadership, you should be working with ownership. And what ownership is that? Don't just own up to your mistakes. Be there with your team members when a project fails. Take a part of the blame not because you're faking it, but because, you want to let your colleagues know that even the worst days have 24 hours. And I promise, when your time comes, they'll make you a part of their celebration which would probably never have happened if you didn't stand by them.

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