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True leaders see the potential in others

11 July 2014
True leaders see the potential in others

It's important to recognise the qualities that make you a better leader: coaching, listening and personal awareness, says Kevin Watson

In my experience, managers fall into one of two camps. There are those outstanding managers who drive individuals to perform at the highest level they are capable of. This approach is very much about control. Then there is leadership.

Leaders inspire individuals to do it for themselves, which is more about freedom. I am a strong advocate of the leadership approach. From personal experience, training and my own research, I believe there are three key elements to becoming a successful leader: coaching, listening and personal awareness.

Listening properly is vital for effective leadership. Listening to someone with your full, undivided attention and demonstrating genuine interest is one of the most empowering things you can do. Speaker and author on sales and marketing, Neil Rackham's ‘communicating behaviours' template uses three colours to differentiate between different types of listening. Purple is very much about giving information, proposing and disagreeing; red is about shutting out, defending and attacking; and green is seeking information, supporting, testing understanding, summarising, building and bringing in.

In the time-pressured work environments we operate in, it isn't always easy to really listen and encourage others to have their say, but to get the best from them, it is necessary to make a conscious effort and, with a little bit of self-awareness, this can easily be achieved.

I subscribe to Kevin Cashman's 'character versus persona' model. As leaders, it is essential to develop self-awareness and realise when we are being driven by our true character and when by persona. The basis of true leadership requires that we are mainly driven by our character. Sustainable leadership is not about eliminating our persona - it is there to help us cope.

It is about increasing character to such a degree that it is primary, thus helping us create sustainable leadership and develop others.

Character transforms, opening up possibilities. Persona protects and helps us cope. It limits the possibilities.

For leadership to be embedded in the culture of Amadeus, it is essential that I lead by example and demonstrate these ways of working every day. I undertake regular professional development to ensure I am the best that I can be, but more than that, I must empower my teams and grow through them. I also encourage my colleagues on the NEC group board to adopt this approach and have had some lively debates about the merits and pitfalls of both leadership and management.

I believe we should all be inspired to strive to be a better leader and to adopt some of these ways of working. As a wise leader once said: "Outstanding leadership is not just how good a leader you are, but
how many leaders you develop."

Kevin Watson is managing director at Amadeus

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