Sound advice for new leaders

Reflections from Mali


Coaching people to be better leaders gives me such a buzz. Seeing them transform in their thinking and their approach is so rewarding and I love how life changing it can be.

I was chatting with one of my clients, Malith Amarasekera, recently and I had a ?proud? moment. We reflected on where he was when we first met and where his is today. He acknowledged the transformation in his thinking, how he sees situations differently and has greater adaptability as a leader.

Mali agreed to share his insights and leadership journey so others can learn and grow.

  1. Before becoming a leader, what did you think leadership was about?

To be honest I didn?t really have any thoughts to what leadership was about. I thought it represented people leading ?teams and that a leader was someone we report to. That we basically do what we have been told (through directive communication) and ask questions if we needed help.

  1. How did this change when you stepped into your first leadership role?

I realised my assumption of leadership was opposite to what it was really about. At first, I thought I would have to be the jack of all trades and must know everything. I was finding all the solutions and making it easier for the staff. Then it became painfully evident that my staff were asking me the same questions but wrapped up with different customers.

To be honest, it was a hard wall to break through. I had a fear of people thinking that I didn?t know something I should. I also had a fear of not being liked, which was greater than my need to be respected.

I felt my team were depending on me to put out their fires and I was happily doing it for them. The result was a decrease in efficiency and my staff weren?t learning.

After observing my colleagues and my boss, leading their teams, it became very clear that I was not portraying leadership in my team. So I started to involve my staff in the decision process and holding them accountable for their commitments.

My knowledge of leadership at the start compared to what I know now is a vast contrast. I am still learning every day, I value self-development and coaching more than ever.

  1. What are the top three pieces of advice you would give to other leaders to get the most out of their teams?:?
  • Surround yourself with colleagues who have the same likes & beliefs in leadership? who can help to identify and eliminate ?the stuff that?s getting in the way?. I often find myself asking for advice and instead they challenge me in the way I think. As uncomfortable as this was in the beginning I now see the benefit and greater confidence it?s given me to lead my team. Simply receiving advice (to fill your pockets up) will get you nowhere and will stagnate your development.
  • Don?t be afraid of not being liked!I thought being liked would gain respect and discovered, the hard way, that this is not the case. Have the confidence to express what needs to be done. If you are fair and firm you will see that they will respect you and follow your lead. I have started to be more firm with my team and they know that I have faith and trust with whatever decision they make. This has resulted in the team taking more initiative and being more confident. This did not happen overnight but I now feel more confident in being my teams leader, rather than just the cool guy that is easy to talk to.
  • Learn to listen more and talk less.At this stage of my leadership development it?s the most valuable trait. In the beginning, I found myself doing all the talking and letting staff say what I wanted to hear – I thought that?s how it was meant to be. Listening more and talking less really gave my staff the chance to voice their opinion, ideas and concerns. I still find it hard, but am seeing the benefit.
  1. How did coaching help you improve your leadership capabilities?

Coaching has helped me understand the ?why? more and develop more tolerance and patience. Seeking external coaching has really helped me eliminate?the stuff that gets in the way. Having a non-biased opinion, has paved the way for me to be a better leader. It has made me a better listener and a better person to lead by being firm but also fair.

Having someone to hear your issues and challenge your way of thinking, has encouraged me to do the same with my staff, to help them achieve their true potential.

Coaching has taught me not to be afraid of where the journey takes you. Where I would set goals to move into another role within a certain timeframe I was ignoring the experiences and opportunities that my current role was offering.?And putting a time limit on my development (to move into a more senior role) brought on unwarranted pressure.

My mindset now has drastically changed. I enjoy the position I am in, I take every day as a learning opportunity and I?ve let go of the self-entitlement.

I now admire the journey that is ahead. I have Shelley to thank for this who clearly illustrated that we should acknowledge the journey, not just the destination in life. I am now a better leader and more importantly, a better person.

Thanks so much Mali for sharing your insights?and lessons!



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