Being a leader doesn’t come natural for everyone. While some are born with an innate sense of leading and directing their own lives and that of others, some people are terrified of being a leader. Then there are those who are desperate to lead and will pour a whole lot of effort and energy into identifying and determining their leadership styles but still haven’t figured out how to integrate behavioural change from what they’ve learned.

Let’s face it, the world would be in chaos if everyone wanted to be a leader. Having said that, I think most people do have leadership qualities, but don’t necessarily recognise them as that, and will often confuse leadership with authority and decision making. All too often I see workplaces where people who have achieved exceptional outcomes in their roles are rewarded by being promoted up through the ranks without adequate support and professional development. And the result? Individuals go from feeling valued and empowered in their skill set, to no longer feeling able to perform with a sense of satisfaction or achievement. Performance and attendance become issues and affects the tone of the culture.

There are so many tools out there now to help determine leadership styles etc that the task of deciding on which one will suit can in itself require an enormous amount of time, effort and energy.  Me, I like to keep things simple. As I reflect I on my own leadership journey, out of all of the professional development I’ve done in the last 20 years, I particularly learned a lot from my formal and informal Restorative Justice training. Note: Theory is one thing, putting it in to practice is a game changer! The most significant elements of Restorative Justice (now called Practices) that I still draw on all these years later are the Social Control Window and Fair Process. There’s a whole body of work behind these theories by the way, but I’ve stripped them down to keep things simple.

So here’s Challenge 1: Ask yourself this question and be honest with yourself:

“When working with others, do you do things To, Not, For or With people?”

Social Control WindowBecause seriously, if you want to be an effective leader and support people to believe in, follow your guidance and direction, and be empowered, then you need to be very very clear about how you do that. This relatively simple question challenges us to reflect on our current behavioural style. And the golden window to be operating out of most of the time? Well, it’s the WITH domain of course.

People will remember far more about how you treat them than anything you could ever teach them.

When I first started out using this model, I was stuck in the “For” domain and would swing through “With and To“. Largely I would do things for people, thinking I was helping out, but deep down I was searching for validation and approval. And guess what? No one could actually validate or approve of me until I did!

Challenge 2: If you want to be a great leader, get to know yourself because that’s where everything starts and stops. Actually it’s what we intuitively admire in confident leaders too; they aren’t searching for external validation as they’ve already got it, and therefore they find it easy to work with us, empowering and helping us grow our confidence.

The most powerful approach we can take in life is to work with people, and yes there will be times when we may need to do things to or for people. But it’s the way in which we go about it that makes the difference.  Not to come from a rights based attitude of “I’m right, you’re wrong” nor a “everyone else knows more about me than me” worldview.

Challenge 3: Learn to have faith and confidence in your own abilities and allow others to own their own stuff.And now to my second favourite element of my Restorative Practices learnings:

Fair Process

Why is this so powerful you might ask? Well, what I learned in theory is that if you take people through the basics of fair process, then most people will accept any outcome. Sounds great in theory doesn’t it?  And guess what ? It’s even better in practice! In all my years of using this fail proof process, most people, will and do accept any outcome if they have been afforded a fair process. And a fair process is as simple as engaging with people, explain the process and desired outcomes, and clarifying expectations.

Challenge 4: Observe how you communicate and look for opportunities to improve the way you engage, explain and clarify your expectations.

Just yesterday I facilitated a process for an amazing group of leaders who had agreed to come together to have a robust, trusting and truthful conversation. Not an easy one to be had, and from the outset, no one was excited about this opportunity other than me. Every single person present spoke about how ill they physically felt about the meeting. But here’s the gold: Once we established ground rules through Fair Process, we were able to move through the meeting with dignity, respect, tears and laughter. And the outcome?

Everyone, and I mean everyone, acknowledged the power of the opportunity in being able to name, address and begin to resolve the hurt and harm they had experienced. Was it easy? No. Was it productive? Yes. Did it achieve more than people expected? Yes. Does it all stop here? No!!! What is has done though is given all seven individuals who participated, a reference point for life when dealing with conflict and tension. Having gone through this process now, they all understand the valuable lessons learned.

Dealing with conflict and tension can be likened to an abscess. It doesn’t appear overnight, and it quite often requires assistance in releasing the built up toxins together with some particular support to heal the infected wound. If the wound is dressed and treated appropriately, very little scarring will remain. And what we know about well healed scar tissue, is that it can actually be stronger as a result of the wound.  On this basis, why wouldn’t we want to help heal hurt and harm?

I’d love to hear if you’re either familiar with these processes and or if you apply them and what kind of dynamic you work with. I believe the more we can help resolve conflict and tension, the more productive and satisfied we can be!