The Challenges of a Senior Leader

“I’m newly appointed to a senior position – what’s expected of me?”
“I’ve been at the head of an organisation for a while but what can I do to up my game?”

These are common questions for those in a leadership position.  If you’re new to leading an organisation you may feel drawn in every direction at once, but paradoxically you may also feel you have nothing to do – in the sense that all your previous tasks are being done by other people.

Another business leader commented to me on my new appointment as Managing Director of a company – “Now everything is your problem!”.  Apart from having a laugh about it – it did lead me to think about what was actually required of me in this new position.

When you think about it a leader needs to be incredibly flexible and multi-skilled.  Firstly, you need to be energetically active in the business with an entrepreneurial attitude – driving it forward and making smart, well-informed decisions.  Then you also need to be able to stand back from the business and form a longer term vision.  You need to keep abreast of the market place and be aware of trends and what their competitors are doing.  And then you need to keep an eye on those around them and make sure employees, customers and suppliers are being treated fairly and performing well.  You also need to be attentive to the business’ effect on society: understanding what the company is doing in the world and taking responsibility for its actions.

After that a leader must put on their management hat and keep a prudent eye on finances. You need to deal with short term issues, setting priorities and making the difficult decisions that no one else wants to make.  And, lastly, you need to make sure the business remains profitable and the shareholders are happy.

Nothing to do?  I don’t think so.

Oh, …and everyone is watching you.  You can’t afford to have an off day and mope around snapping at your staff.

So what do you do about all these different demands on your time and energies?

  • Plan your time, make space for all the different elements of your job, and be disciplined about taking time out for thinking.
  • Learn from others: make sure you get training, a mentor or a coach and keep improving your leadership skills.
  • Make sure you have a few trusted people around you that you can be honest with so you can open up and get support when you need it.
  • Understand that nobody gets it all right – and let yourself off the hook if you make mistakes.

If you want some structured training on these issues you could join one the Impellus Leadership Skills courses in February.

Nicky Forsyth – Yellowfire Marketing