Being an AAA leader

Three words that come up consistently during my coaching work are: autonomy, allyship and authenticity. As leaders, we all need to master these 3 As, but how do we do this, and how do we encourage those we lead to develop in each of these areas too?

Let’s start with allyship; no one can operate without allies, be that in the board room or on the shop floor. At their best, our work place relationships are of an adult to adult nature. However, getting there can take time and is not necessarily and straight forward process the more senior we become. When allyships form naturally it’s a real bonus, however all too often we need to identify the allies we need in our organisation and actively build those important relationships.

Good leaders also look beyond their teams and build allies outside of their organisations. Doing this can help bring in new ideas or benchmark what you might be doing against third parties. Recruitment can be accelerated through a strong network and different influences can be accessed which might help solve sticky challenges.

Encourage your teams to build valuable networks that can be with them for the duration of their careers. The more you are able to get these new influences and ideas into your team in a positive way, the greater the network effect will be on those you lead.

Next up autonomy. There is a wealth of evidence suggesting the more autonomy we are given the more effective we can be. Here a leader needs to provide and teams need to understand what their rules of engagement are; once set, as leaders, we then need to empower so that our teams are free to operate, succeed, fail and learn within their boundaries of authority.

And then there’s authenticity, a really fashionable term at the moment, but a concept which is difficult to define. However, again, there is plenty of evidence that shows the more authentic you allow those around you to be, the more effective they will be.

In combination with a culture of honesty and clear boundaries of autonomy, authenticity leads to more diverse thinking and better long-term decision-making. Start with yourself as a leader; take a few risks and share who you really are and how you really want to operate. Done well, this infectious positivity can liberate those around you to be much more authentic and contribute much more than they otherwise would. In turn, your team will learn and grow more quickly meaning an improvement in business performance.

AAA leadership is much easier to describe than it is to practice. However, as it’s the New Year, just get started and think about developing what your version of each A is. Be honest with yourself and your team, take a few risks to engender confidence in your team to behave in these ways and soon all of you will see the benefits.