Leading by example

Leadership starts with leading ourselves. If we don’t have our own heads in order, what right do we have to attempt to manage others? When we start with ourselves, we can achieve a specific ‘leadership mindset’ that allows us to lead with clarity, focus and the determination to achieve our goals, as Jodi Cottle explains here

The concept of values is one of the three key parts that make up a ‘leadership mindset’ and is, therefore, an essential place to start. While some may find talk of values to be overly “fluffy”, they are in fact the backbone of your team’s culture. Without them, culture may still exist but it won’t be the one you have crafted that serves your organisation. 

The second key part in developing a ‘leadership mindset’ is controlling your thoughts. Some 85 per cent of women experience imposter syndrome at some point in their careers. This is a debilitating phenomenon that can hinder a person from reaching their full potential – all because their own thoughts try to sabotage them. Controlling your thoughts is a vital part of leadership and having mindfulness exercises that support performance, rather than hindering it, is crucial. 

The third key part to making up a ‘leadership mindset’ is controlling your environment. As adults, we tend to take on more than we should, leaving little time for ourselves. This constant state of overdrive is not just exhausting, it is detrimental to our mental health and overall performance in all facets of life.  Most of us intuitively know this, but we stay in our overwhelmed state anyway because there’s just so much to do. 

However, what many don’t realise is what this is doing to our brain over time. Long-term effects of being in a chronic state of overwhelm can lead to Alzheimer’s in much the same way as long-term alcoholism can lead to liver failure – the compounding effect is so great. Knowing this pearl of wisdom is what will make us start to say “no” and pull back from our constant state of busy-ness, to resume a more balanced way of life.

Soft skills need a framework to thrive

Leadership is a learned soft skill that requires a playbook of frameworks and models to help organise the chaos in both our own working lives, as well as that of our staff members. There are many coaching, leadership and business frameworks to draw from, however two frameworks that work impeccably well together are VACAS – a leadership style framework and SCARE – a neuroscience leadership model.

Both enable an environment that breeds high performance, team cohesion and loyalty.  VACAS looks at the five leadership styles you must embody if you are to create this kind of environment: Visionary, Authentic, Coaching, Authoritative and Servant. It is important to note that while authoritative gets a mention, it must only be utilised once full trust and rapport has been built and even then only in pressure cooker situations. Overuse or premature use of this harsh style may mean that leaders are unable to find a way back to inspiring and rallying their teams; something that ultimately means they will fail.

SCARE is a framework developed by Linda Ray from a training organisation called Neurocapability. SCARE allows us to look at the five domains of human behaviour that generate a threat (fight/flight) or reward response (productive/prosperous). These domains are: Significance – our relative importance to other people; Certainty – where we seek predictability; Autonomy – our perception of control over events; Relatedness – our connectedness to those around us; and Equity – our perception of a fair deal/transparency.  

Focus on optimising productivity

As leaders, when we learn how much productivity is stunted from people living in a threat state – which can often be an unintended consequence of the modern-day workplace – we can create environments in reverse where all five SCARE domains live in perfect harmony. This enables our staff to remain in the reward state of mind, optimising productivity. 

Additionally, in a world where diversity, equity and inclusion policies are now par for the course in organisations around the world, ensuring the implementation of VACAS and SCARE will allow companies to adhere to this formidable force as it becomes less about the individuals and more about the environment that we, as leaders, create.

It’s also important to consider that we must lead our customers too. This ensures there is cohesion with our clients and that they feel heard; it also reduces any guesswork where it comes to capital expenditure, as we are much more aligned with our customers’ needs.  

The Sustainable Competitive Advantage (SCA) framework allows a leader to journey with their clients to co-create a value proposition and customer experience that is unique to the business, making them stand out sustainably against their competition. With the race-to-the-bottom, low-price approach evident in many service-based businesses these days, standing out due to excellent customer experience is not just a strategy to be followed, it has become vital for survival in the battlefield of business.

All these models and more can be found in The Pocket MBA: A Woman’s Playbook for Succeeding in Business by Jodi Cottle, published by Wiley. Cottle is an award-winning entrepreneur and small business owner. She currently operates a high-performing business within the world’s largest aesthetics franchise network, Laser Clinics Australia. Cottle earned her MBA at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. She is available for corporate speaking engagements and can be contacted at www.jodicottle.com

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