Good leaders engage people in their mission and work collaboratively to make it a success, says Advita Patel, director of CommsRebel and co-founder of A Leader Like Me.

1st June 2022

Anyone can be a leader.

By that I mean, there’s no restrictions to leadership when it comes to factors like seniority, age and status. Being a manager doesn’t automatically make someone a leader. Leadership – good leadership – influences people. It creates an impact for the better. It encourages people to be their best selves. It helps them find their spark.

A common misconception about leadership is that it’s something hierarchical. But that’s not true. I know senior people who are not good leaders, and I know entry-level people who are. Leadership is about collaboration, support and coaching. Being curious, caring and empathetic makes you a good leader. Egos just get in the way.

Of course, there are many instances when leaders do happen to sit at the top, but that still doesn’t mean hierarchy overrules expectations of behaviour. Within the professional world, the view of what’s considered the “popular” and appropriate style of leadership has shifted. Gone are the days when the tell and command approach felt widely acceptable. Now, even heads of organisations are expected to be collaborative colleagues who will actively listen.  

This shift in expectations is connected to both the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent rise of hybrid working. Over the past couple of years people have stopped to reflect on what matters most to them and the values they want to live in all aspects of their lives. If the people in charge don’t match these values, then there tends to be a disconnect.

Hybrid or fully remote working has also led many organisations to completely lose the symbolism of leaders sitting on the top floor and being out of reach – instead, people want to see the person behind the leader, and they want that person to be someone who will treat them as equals.

Succeeding as a modern-day leader

Internal communicators have a significant role to play in shaping and supporting people to become the new style of leader that people want. We’re in the privileged position of having one foot in the workforce and one foot in the executive committee, and this umbrella view should be used to bring together employees’ needs with the organisation’s goals.

We are strong at listening, engaging and empathising, and these are all skills that good leaders need in order to support and build trust with their workforce. If your executive committee is lacking in this area, work closely with them to resolve this.

It can seem like a daunting prospect to approach executives with this proposition, but part of being a good leader for yourself is being bold.

Internal communicators should also play a big part in the strategic narrative. Our skills as good storytellers can support leaders in carving out and sharing their own story, with a goal to engage people in their mission. Employees want to know that their work has value and meaning, so leaders need to demonstrate purpose and bring employees on the journey alongside them as they achieve the organisation’s objectives.

If you find strong resistance and an unwillingness to do the work it takes to achieve this, then you need to assess whether the values of the organisation align with your own. We have all seen first-hand that there’s far more important ways to spend our time than working for an organisation that doesn’t care about its people, and many people are taking more risks when it comes to their career as a result.

Organisations that don’t have good leaders who are connected to their people will lose talent if they don’t fix this, and they risk getting left behind.

You can hear more about Advita’s thoughts on leadership at the first-ever CommsRebel conference, a hybrid event taking place on Tuesday 14 June 2022. Use discount code “IOIC” to save 10 per cent on tickets.


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