I caught up with one of our Graduates recently. He had taken part in a programme in Bristol, in 1992. He started by telling me that he thought his story might be underwhelming. He had read some of the case studies on our website. Stories of entrepreneurship, collaboration, and connection, and of leaders who had done unexpected and extraordinary things.
Then he told me about his 39-year career as an accountant, and how his Common Purpose programme had fundamentally changed his outlook on how he operated and lead others, on the decisions he made, and how he conducted himself professionally. His story was extraordinary – he just hadn't recognized it for himself.
I began to reflect on how many people would have benefited and prospered through his choices and behaviours, how many people had better professional careers because of his actions, how many relationships he had built, and how many people thrived because of these.
Whilst we are often quick to recognize and point out 'bad leadership', we often don’t notice 'good leadership' and its many positive consequences. It seems much easier to see and critique 'bad leadership', whilst when something works well, we often fail to notice its positive impact.
When we talk about impactful leadership, we need to get better at recognizing the people who practice 'good leadership', and better understand what it is they do. What's it like to work in their teams? What happens when a team leader creates the space and opportunities for everyone to thrive? Where people are inspired and empowered to implement change? How does the business benefit? How do those individuals, who've been given the opportunity to grow and develop, go on to manage their own teams and conduct their own careers?
Good leadership has a huge amplification – it can reach out and impact many people, who in turn practice good leadership themselves throughout their professional and personal lives.
We need to get better at celebrating the good. We need to get better at recognizing the impact that these good leaders have on the people and projects around them. How can we help everyone recognize their own impact? How can we help them recognize the value in what they do, so like the graduate I spoke to, they don’t think what they’ve achieved, and the many people whose professional lives have been improved, is an underwhelming story?
How can we all start to see more of the positive impact in our work?
- Always ask yourself what was your intention? Consider what you set out to do, and how others around you have progressed and developed under your leadership.
- Hold a mirror to yourself. Do you see change in yourself? Change can often be slow but it's there. Continuous growth and development leads to better performance over time, but it might not be totally linear, and you might hit obstacles along the way.
- Be curious and look for feedback. Have others noticed change? We can all be our own biggest critics – find out what others see.
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