Jane Sunley from Learnpurple discusses leadership

15 September 2011
Jane Sunley from Learnpurple discusses leadership

Much is written and talked about when it comes to leadership; yet so few organisations really nail it. Part of the issue is that leadership isn't just about the inspirational and visionary CEO. To the person on the front line, their supervisor or manager is the leader, exemplifying the best of what the company is all about.

Our own research has also shown that having good leadership is a top five motivator for people in hospitality. Therefore, to have any chance at all of building great teams that get results, it's necessary to build leadership capability at all levels. If your leaders at all levels aren't up to scratch, it's time to take action.

Often with leadership you see a cascade effect - great leadership breeds great leadership. Senior types and business owners need to make sure they are displaying role model behaviour and excellent leadership qualities at all times. This is easier said than done, though with determination and self-discipline it can be achieved.

Leading people is a responsibility that cannot be underestimated and a lifelong work in progress. It's been described as requiring the same effort as that of a reformed addict, taking every day at a time, and applying constant focus to stay on the straight and narrow.

We believe that leaders have the ability to make an impact by constantly maintaining:

1. Focus - a clarity of vision, ability to articulate in language people can relate to, and the drive to keep things on track- especially during periods of change.

2. Language - remaining controlled and positive even in crisis, inspiring confidence, talking things up instead of down, maintaining adult-to-adult relationships with people; building trust and respect.

3. State - people need their leaders to be consistent and emotionally intelligent, to always appear in control, taking the risk out of a situation for others. We call it a ‘constant state of excellence'.

Watch the video - Leadership with Jane Sunley

However, these traits alone are not enough. Great leaders display many characteristics and are generally complex beings. There's no one formula. What's important, though, is that there's some parity in the way leaders within an organisation behave. For example, how many people become disengaged, or leave when they have a change of manager or come into contact with other leaders within their workplace? I'm not talking about cloning - because it's important for personality and charisma to shine through.

In the same way you'd define organisational values and ‘non-negotiables' so that people can work within the cultural scope of their workplace and, most importantly, personify the brand, it's useful for the organisation to identify key leadership characteristics their leaders should display, or be developed to display. You can't expect all leaders to display all of these traits. And of course, no one can be expected to be perfect - that's where the ‘work in progress' comes in. What's important is that they're not routinely displaying the opposite behaviours, as that could cause a lot of damage. It's important to start developing these traits in everyone in the organisation - growing capability from day one.

This isn't just about sending people away on development programmes; it's about the way people are managed and mentored.

There's a whole list of possible leadership attributes in Purple Your People - as an example, suppose one of the desired leadership attributes is decisiveness. Make sure people are supported to be able to analyse issues to solve problems and learn to make their own decisions from early on. In our view, it's better to make a decision and then adapt and amend than procrastinate. Decisions force action which brings about progression.

Obviously this needs careful thought and planning. You can't just say ‘our leaders will' and expect it to happen. Developing leaders is a life-long process and something we believe the individual should take their own responsibility for. Yes you can go off to Harvard or Tsinghua or the LSE but not everyone has that opportunity and anyway, we believe it's only half the story.

We're massive fans of mentoring. Anyone who's serious about their leadership career should find themselves a mentor, someone who they regard as an inspirational leader (the good guys are usually happy to give some time to promote good leadership in others). People have so much experience and knowledge yet some go to the grave without passing very much of it on.

Coaching is also a great tool. Whilst this requires more investment, the returns are great. Buying in trained professionals or running coaching programmes in-house are highly recommended.

Work out how leadership works within your organisation
2 Recruit for potential leadership - you can test this at interview and check aspirations
3 Start developing people and imparting knowledge from day one, always managing expectations
4 Have robust talent management in place so succession planning is always up to date and you can identify future leaders
5 Provide internal challenges and projects to test ability, stretch and inspire
6 Send employees on external secondments and experiential learning
7 Check aspirations, development plans and personal circumstances regularly - things change
8 Measure and manage progress, giving lots of feedback
9 Appoint fairly

The secrets to inspired, happy, more profitable people, is a practical, fun and easy to digest guide to the ‘people stuff' aimed at all organisations wanting to create exceptionally talented, high performing teams.
Published by Crimson Publishing
ISBN 9781780590462


â- Job swaps, work shadowing, visits
â- Projects and self-study
â- E-learning, distance learning
â- Chairing meetings, working parties and committees
â- Non-exec directorships/trusteeships - paid and unpaid
â- The most important thing is that leaders in the making must have access to this development on the way up - once they're there it's too late

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