To be honest, I never considered myself to be much of a leader.
I’m a doer, a thinker, a good team player – but a leader is not among the first labels I would give myself. But that’s because I, probably like many others, may have been considering leadership to be synonymous with management.
As an employee at an IPREX-connected agency, I had the opportunity to improve my leadership abilities at IPREX’s Emerging Leadership Conference (ELC) in Boston, where in addition to hands-on learning, we got a dose of colonial wisdom on leadership during the Revolution.
IPREX is a global network of communication agencies working across the spectrum of industry sectors and practice disciplines; AKCG is IPREX’s Philadelphia-area office. For clients, partnering with AKCG means having access to this global network of communication and marketing pros. On an individual practitioner level, working at AKCG means having the opportunity to professionally develop with these international peers.
As I came to realize during the ELC, leadership is not so much about overseeing processes or managing individual tasks for projects or people. Instead, leadership relies upon soft skills and emotional intelligence to help move the group toward a common goal. While leadership and management certainly share qualities, leadership doesn’t depend upon set years of experience or job title. There are moments when we all, regardless of position or seniority, have opportunities to lead.
The Henley Leadership Group guided IPREX’s emerging leaders from around the world through a workshop on collaboration. We learned how good leadership can encourage efficient and effective collaboration. Each attendee came from a public relations firm or marketing agency setting, like AKCG, that is equipped with members who have diverse sets of skills, backgrounds and experiences, and importantly, distinct viewpoints through which challenges or issues are analyzed. All of our respective agencies depend on strong collaboration between these diverse colleagues not only for internal work processes but for external outputs for clients.
Throughout the ELC, I learned how leaders can put to work the power of soft skills and emotional intelligence to help steer teams into conditions conducive for productive collaboration. Highly collaborative teams are more energized and likely to produce top-notch work for clients. And equally importantly, this work can help keep them fulfilled professionally and dedicated to the mission of your organization.
Here are some ways you can start leading in order to help your team become more cohesive:
- Build trust. We each have the ability to contribute to a team’s mutual trust and respect. Be fair, take risks and tap into each other’s skills and experiences.
- Remember the mission. It’s easy to get lost in the details. Do your part to help the team return to the larger purpose by reminding colleagues on how any given project contributes to the bigger picture.
- Encourage “stretching.” Team members need to continuously grow emotionally, physically, intellectually and spiritually. Without fulfillment in these areas, folks can be less motivated. Encourage your coworkers to stretch by understanding their needs and choosing productive actions.
- Practice appreciation. Actively listen to your teammates’ ideas and contributions and genuinely share an appreciation for their work.
- Take accountability. Lead by example. Admit your mistakes, fall on your sword, own it – but be sure to get back to work.
At AKCG, one of our firm’s greatest strengths is our ability to come together and pull the best, most creative ideas out of each other. In any given team brainstorm or meeting, there’s an opportunity to step into a leadership role to advance goals. So, that’s where I’ll be – stepping into leadership to help keep our minds imaginative, our clients happy and myself motivated.